Tuesday, March 4, 2014

New Study on Military Suicides Raises Questions

As some may know, I was among the first--a decade ago--to focus on the rising rate of suicides among U.S. soldiers deployed to our war zones and after they return home (see my book So Wrong for So Long).   The military has taken various steps, with mixed success, to tackle the problem, which remains severe even with fewer troops under fire.  Now a major study provides some clues on why the rate rose and the makeup of the suicidal soldiers.  Too much to summarize but read this NYT report.  One issue: An alarmingly high percentage of enlistees enter the service showing a tendency to "impulsive" violent behavior--which not only leads to successful suicides but also raises other questions. 
“The people at highest risk of making an attempt struggled with depression and anxiety, or post-traumatic stress, in combination with impulsiveness and aggression,” Dr. Nock said. “The former gets people thinking about suicide, and the latter gets them to act on those thoughts.”
The new findings present the military with a challenging question: How do you identify people vulnerable to suicide without driving them underground? More intensive scrutiny typically leads would-be recruits to hide mental struggles. Some experts suggested that the services could screen people after enlistment, to identify those who might be offered additional support.

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