LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — There was a huge spike in suicide attempts among both deployed and non-deployed U.S. military members between 2004 and 2009, according to new data from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
The report says the suicide rate for those who were deployed to the Middle East more than doubled in that time, and tripled for those who weren’t deployed. The overall rate kept climbing through 2012, before finally dropping in 2013.
The study is the result of Secretary of the Army Pete Geren seeking an explanation for the alarming jump in suicides from NIMH in 2008, according to NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel.
Thus, Army STARRS, or Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers, was born.
Insel says the study encompasses data from more than 110,000 soldiers who served on active duty in the U.S. Army from 2004 to 2009. Surveys were conducted during “all walks of Army life,” including deployment, at more than 75 Army installations around the globe, Insel says.
In a blog post published on the NIMH website Tuesday, Insel says these were among the most notable findings of the data:
- There was a disproportionate rise in suicide risk among deployed female soldiers.
- Risk was higher in soldiers demoted in the last 2 years, and those without a high school diploma or GED. Risk was inversely related to rank and to length of Army service.
- Married soldiers had a lower suicide risk during deployment.
- More than 1/3 of post-enlistment suicide attempts are associated with pre-enlistment mental disorders.
“Early on, one of the most valuable contributions of the project was ‘myth busting,'” Insel writes in his blog post.
“Indeed, most of our assumptions about what was driving the suicide rate up—multiple deployments, intense combat, changes in recruitment standards—were incomplete or even wrong.”
Insel says he hopes the findings are “nothing more than a down payment” on what Army STARRS delivers to the Army’s men and women in the coming years.
Veterans and their families who need help dealing with suicidal thoughts can call 800-273-TALK or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net.