Some combat experiences — like ambushes or killing a civilian — more closely linked to suicide, study finds
A years-long study of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans found three combat experiences most closely linked with suicidal behavior. The report explores a wide variety of factors, some as straightforward as the trauma of combat, but also others, such as advancements in health care that have not only allowed more troops to survive injury, but allowed them to continue to deploy over and over, racking up more physical and mental trauma
The suicide rate among active-duty troops and veterans has outpaced the also-rising rate in the general population in recent years, but with so many risk factors inherent to military life, it’s difficult to pin down why.
There’s no one reason for it, according to a study released Monday by the Costs of War Project, and the way the Defense Department and VA track suicides might mean even their growing numbers are incomplete.
“The report notes that the increasing rates of suicide for both veterans and active duty personnel are outpacing those of the general population ― an alarming shift, as suicide rates among service members have historically been lower than suicide rates among the general population,” according to a news release.
Per researchers’ estimates, 30,177 Global War on Terror veterans have died by suicide, compared to 7,057 who have died while deployed in support of the Global War on Terror.
“There are clear contributors to suicidal ideation like high exposure to trauma — mental, physical, moral, and sexual — stress and burnout, the influence of the military’s hegemonic masculine culture, continued access to guns, and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life,” according to the report. “In addition to these factors, it is imperative we also consider the impact of the military’s reliance on guiding principles which overburden individual service members with moral responsibility, or blameworthiness for actions or consequences, over which they have little control.”