Army suicides have risen dramatically since Iraq invasion, study shows

Members of the Army train in Hawaii. Members of the Army train in Hawaii. David Goldman/AP

Suicide rates among Army personnel have increased by 80 percent since the military began sending troops to Iraq, a new study shows.

Army suicides were trending downward from 1977 to 2003, but started rising in 2004, according to the study written by officials from the service’s Public Health Command and published Thursday in Injury Prevention, an international peer-reviewed journal for health professionals. Around the same time, there was a prevalent increase in mental disorders among the Army. Male soldiers, troops with mental health disorders treated on an outpatient basis and those in lower enlisted ranks had higher risk of suicide.

“This study does not show that U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan cause suicide,” study contributing author and spokeswoman Dr. Michelle Chervak, senior epidemiologist at the U.S. Army Public Health Command, told Government Executive. “This study suggests that an Army engaged in prolonged combat operations is a population under stress, and that mental health conditions and suicide can be expected to increase under these circumstances.”

Around 40 percent of the suicides since 2004 might be associated with Iraq-related military events, the study’s authors said. About 20 in every 100,000 soldiers committed suicide in 2008. Nearly one-third of suicides that year occurred among troops who were not deployed. Chervak emphasized, however, that even during peacetime, 10 to 15 in every 100,000 soldiers die by suicide.

The research was based on data from the Defense Casualty Information Processing System and Defense Medical Surveillance System, and took six months to complete.

Chervak said prevention strategies for soldiers -- some of which the Army already has implemented -- could include more education of chaplains, primary care doctors and other individuals who interact with those most at risk for mental health disorders. The study also suggested initiating mental health and suicide awareness programs, as well as mental fitness and resiliency training.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.