Study: No Link Between Combat, Military Suicides

Suicide risk factors same as in civilian population

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 6, 2013 10:38 PM CDT

(Newser) – People in the military kill themselves for the same reasons civilians do and there is no clear link between combat or deployment overseas and the military's surging suicide rate, according to a new study. Researchers, who tracked 150,000 soldiers from 2001 to 2008, found that most of those who killed themselves were heavy drinkers who suffered from depression or had been diagnosed with manic depression, CNN reports. Surprisingly, being deployed for longer than a year was associated with a lower risk of suicide.

The study suggests that military suicides can be curbed with the same approaches used in civilian life, but the problem in the military is that doctors can end patients' careers by recommending early discharge, making soldiers less likely to seek help, Army Medical Corps Col. Charles Engel tells Bloomberg. "The answer has to be an effort to approximate civilian standards of confidentiality," he says. "Unless we’re dealing with an imminent risk to combat or a tactical mission, really we should be using civilians’ standards."

FILE - A U.S. soldier walks atop his armored vehicle at sunset as he prepares for a nighttime military exercise in the Kuwaiti desert south of the Iraqi border on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2002. Combat appears to have little or no influence on suicide rates among U.S. troops...
FILE - A U.S. soldier walks atop his armored vehicle at sunset as he prepares for a nighttime military exercise in the Kuwaiti desert south of the Iraqi border on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2002. Combat appears...   (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
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In the military, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel to prevent suicide. - Col. Charles Engel,
Army Medical Corps

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