Military Suicide Study: Risk Higher For Those With Past Trauma Before Enlisting

Military suicide risk is higher for those who’ve experienced past trauma prior to enlisting, according to a trio of new studies reported by PBS.

The studies were presented as part of the American Psychological Association (APA) convention in Washington, D.C., with each exploring the link between preliminary suicide attempts, sexual abuse, and the risk for future suicidal behavior, the second-leading cause of death among U.S. military personnel, the site noted.

Soldiers reporting childhood abuse were three to eight times more likely to admit suicidal behavior, said one study conducted by the National Center for Veterans’ Studies at the University of Utah.

“Experiencing abuse early in life in the home may lead to a tendency to perceive and experience stressful events as catastrophic and insurmountable,” said the study’s author James Griffith, Ph.D. “A child experiencing abuse has little opportunity to effectively cope when stressed, being in a powerless position with no recourse…. This may lead to less ability to handle future stressful circumstances.”

Griffith looked at data from surveys completed in 2010 by 12,567 soldiers who were serving in the Army National Guard. The ANG saw an uptick in suicide by its members, even when overall military suicides dropped by 15 percent in 2013, PBS pointed out.

Griffith found that the initial rates of suicide were highest among groups engaged in ground combat and were attributed to the stress of fighting.

In a separate report on Saturday, USA Today reported:

“Sexual trauma also increases the risk of suicidal behavior, researchers say, so they compared the suicide risk from military sexual trauma to that involving civilian sexual trauma. They surveyed 426 service members and veterans enrolled in college classes and found that more than 25 percent of women and 4 percent of men reported sexual trauma in the military — a prevalence similar to sexual victimization in both the general U.S. population and college student population.

“Work presented by researcher AnnaBelle Bryan outlined past suicide thoughts and attempts among service members and veterans before entering the military; about half had thought about suicide and one-quarter had attempted it prior to their military service.

“‘Having thoughts about suicide and having a suicide attempt for the first time in your life before joining the military was associated with significant increased risk for suicide attempt during the military,’ she says. ‘A considerable proportion of military suicide behaviors occur among those with preexisting conditions or risks.'”

What do you think should be done to curb the risk of military suicide given this new information? Share your thoughts in our comments section.

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