Understanding Army Suicides

iStock_000063632745_MediumSuicide rates are increasing nationally, and they're also increasing among soldiers in the US Army. Now a study in JAMA Psychiatry Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week attempts to take a look at the multitude of factors that surround a suicide attempt in an Army enlistee, clearly with an eye toward intervention at risky times.  What did they find?

Records of regular Army soldiers from 2004 to 2009 were examined, and 9650 suicide attempts were identified. Here's what investigators found: "risk estimates for sociodemographic and mental health predictors were highest among those never deployed, and currently and previously deployed soldiers had the highest risk of attempt by firearm. Risk was highest in the second month of service (never deployed), sixth month of deployment (currently deployed), and fifth month after return (previously deployed)." A few other findings worth noting: women were more likely to attempt suicide, as were those whose Army career spanned two years or less, and both depression and post traumatic stress disorder were risk factors.   Rick and I agree that figuring out who is at risk and conducting targeted screening among those who fit the profiles might help bring down the rising rate of suicide among those in the Army, which has exceeded that in the general population beginning in 2008. We hope that such studies might also inform effective screening strategies that might be employed among the civilian population as well.

Other topics this week include Zika and microcephaly modeling in NEJM, and in Annals of Internal Medicine, public reporting of mortality data and the impact of improving HIV control in South Africa.  Until next week, y'all live well.


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