International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Military Matters: Suicide Prevention in the U.S. Army: Targeting Risk and Resilience

10/01/2017
by Eren Youmans Watkins, PhD, MPH, Kelly Forys Donahue, PhD, Joseph Pecko, PhD, LCSW, and Kenneth Cox, MD, MPH
From a public health perspective, U.S. Army suicides are rare events and the prevalence of suicide in the U.S. Army is low (less than 0.02 percent). However, the impact of even one death, especially a suicide, has a resounding effect on America’s fighting force.

Since 2004, there has been an observed increase in the suicide rate among U.S. Army Soldiers. The U.S. Army’s highest number and rate of suicide among active-duty Soldiers was in 2012. In more recent years, 2013 to 2015, the U.S. Army suicide rate has stabilized and is approaching the rate seen in a matching U.S. population. While not as dramatic, the suicide count and rate in the U.S. general population has also increased in the last several years (Curtin, Warner, and Hedegaard, 2016).

Most risk factors for suicide among U.S. Army Soldiers are not unique to the military. Several studies have demonstrated that a myriad of circumstances, not one single factor, contribute to a person dying by suicide (Millner et al., 2017; Nock et al., 2017; Ursano et al., 2017). Among Soldiers, most suicide cases are young, junior enlisted, white, and male. In general, these characteristics have remained unchanged, but in recent years the rate of suicide among older Soldiers (25-34 years of age) has increased compared to younger Soldiers (17-24 years of age) (Nweke et al., 2016).

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