Study finds non-combat vets more likely to commit suicide

The military community offers a variety of resources to help individuals. Supervisors, first sergeants, commanders, Airman and Family Readiness Centers, Chaplains and Mental Health professionals are available and equipped to assist individuals in need. All mental health programs are geared toward suicide prevention and increasing resiliency. Unit-based resiliency training, stress and anger-management training, outpatient-counseling services, family advocacy and alcohol and drug abuse counseling are also offered. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Recent detailed studies earlier this year have revealed that veteran suicide rates are now 50% higher than their civilian counterparts, with the military suicide rate being slightly higher among veterans who never deployed.

According to an LA Times article posted on January 14th of this year, “The new analysis, which will be published in the February issue of the Annals of Epidemiology, included all 1,282,074 veterans who served in active-duty units between 2001 and 2007 and left the military during that period.”

During this time period, it is estimated that veteran suicides amounted to one suicide a day, with the first three years out of the service being the most vulnerable time for suicides to potentially occur.

Interestingly enough, the rate of suicides by veterans in that era who never deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq was around 16% higher than those who had deployed. VA health statistician and paper co-author Tim Bullman suggests that one of the reasons for the higher rates may be that servicemembers with psychological issues are often flagged from deployment and potentially not given the same focus as combat veterans.

Executive Director of Soldiers And Families Embraced (SAFE) Jodi McCullah suggests that the higher rate among non-combat veterans could potentially be attributed to a false sense of stability.

“We’re looking at the statistics and have a lot of people coming to us in crisis,” McCullah said in an interview with Popular Military. “While lot of them have seen combat, many have never deployed. A lot of people join the military looking for stability and ideals (such as honor), who are essentially looking at the military as a ‘safe place’. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.” In addition, the trauma from bad experiences or poor command can have lifelong effects.

This statement correlates with a 2010 study released by the American Medical Journal, claiming that the military may serve as a refuge for many who had more abusive or violent home lives than their civilian counterparts.

McCullah also suggests that the strains take a particularly high toll on female servicemembers, a sentiment backed up by the recent study which found that female veterans take their own life at twice the rate of their civilian counterparts. “Trauma is trauma’, McCullah said, ‘sexual, physical or emotional”.

Earlier today, Department of Veterans Affairs Public Affairs Officer Gina Jackson responded to inquiries by Popular Military, stating that while “rates of suicide were higher among those who had not been deployed when compared to those who had been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan’, that ‘research into potential causes of this difference is ongoing.”

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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