Health Team

Study: military suicides not connected with deployment

Posted August 6, 2013

Suicide has become one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. military.

Over the last decade, more than 2,700 active duty service members have taken their own life - and that number is continuing to rise.

Researchers examined the risk factors of active and reserve military personnel in all branches of service and found surprising information: suicide is not directly correlated to deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

American service men and women face unique stresses, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Some people have thought these deployments have been increasing the risk of suicide,” said Cynthia Leard Mann of the Naval Health Research Center.

Researchers with the Naval Health Research Center looked at data from national death registries and the Millennium Cohort study, which looks at the long-term health effects of deployment on service members.

“In the last year, there’s been approximately one death per day on average due to suicide among our active duty force,” said Nancy Crum-Cianflone, director of the Millennium Cohort study team.

Researchers examined 22 risk factors, including the number and length of deployments, combat experience, rank and mental health disorders such as manic depression, depression and alcohol misuse.

“There was actually no relationship between deployments in support of the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the subsequent occurrence of suicide,” said Crum-Cianflone.

Male service members had twice the risk for suicide than female service members, but this same trend also exists in the general population.

“What we did find is that the mental health factors were associated with suicide, and these included depression, manic-depressive disorder and alcohol-related problems,” said Leard Mann.

"The majority of suicides happened among people who never deployed in support of the current operations,” said Crum-Cianflone.

Mental health screening and effective treatment are vital in decreasing the risk of suicide.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


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  • JennyB Aug 12, 2013

    My proposal for giving servicemembers help (in response to soapbox), is to give them help while they're in. If they have a combat MOS, MAKE them see an on-base counselor once a month or so for a wellness visit. Nothing does better than talking to a commrade, not some kid straight out of college with a psych degree. Give them more time to destress before they get out. Quit shoving powerpoint presentations down their throat a week before they EAS and start talking to them like people. They don't pay attention. They sleep and dip. More wife/family groups and education too. Thankfully, my dad was vietnam era, so I didn't freak out too bad when my husband patrolled the house in the middle of the night.

  • soapbox Aug 12, 2013

    With all due respect, the data that relates suicide to deployment don't come from surveys. Those statistics come from military records. Are you guys saying that the records are falsified?

    Secondly, regarding the surveys... if military personnel are loath to report mental health problems for fear of repercussions, what difference does it make if they send out the surveys during active duty? That would seem to be contradictory. Wouldn't they be LESS likely to self-report during active duty?

    I don't think anyone would dispute that we need to take better care of our men and women in the military, especially when it comes to their mental health. The stigma of asking for help needs to be erased. How do you propose we do that when it's so entrenched in the "unwritten code" and the norm is non-cooperation from those who are suffering?

  • scvmcdoc Aug 9, 2013

    Being a service member with over 31 years of service and several deployments I have to say that I think that this study is a bunch of "hog wash"! We are losing to many of our brothers and sisters and the government needs to do a better job of taking of service members returning from deployment at the time they return, not survey them 1 to 2 years post-deployment.

  • JennyB Aug 8, 2013

    Absolutely dodge! I know several people that have covered up their personal illnesses because they know the medicine they will be prescribed will be held against them later in life. There are so many problems. I'd love to sit down with the Millenium Cohort study team and give them a black and white explanation as to why their results are incorrect. This thing makes me angry. These findings get released to the public and the underlying problem gets shoved further and further under the rug. Agh!

  • 68_dodge_polara Aug 7, 2013

    "Better yet, no one in service admits to being depressed because of the hoops and embarrassment you have to jump through to get help."

    Also the government never forgets when a member of the military admits to being depressed and can have certain rights denied at a later point in time.

  • JennyB Aug 7, 2013

    Most of the veterans that had deployments under their belt, didn't fill out the survey that you sent to our house over and over and over again. Why? My husband has been out almost 2 years and you just recently asked him to fill out the survey. Want better results? Ask them while they're still in service. I disagree with your findings 150%. Better yet, no one in service admits to being depressed because of the hoops and embarrassment you have to jump through to get help.