Soldiers without a documented history of mental health concerns were much more likely to attempt suicide early in their service than those with a documented diagnosis history. Nearly 60 percent of the attempts among soldiers without a history occurred in their first year of service, compared with 20 percent for those with a history.
One risk factor unique to those without a mental health diagnosis history was enlisting at a young age – before age 21.
Over one-third of a sample of American soldiers who attempted suicide did not have a prior mental health diagnosis, a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry finds. But the risk factors that predict suicide attempts in these soldiers are largely the same as those for soldiers who previously have been diagnosed with a mental health issue.
Dr. Robert J. Ursano, a psychiatrist at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and lead author of the study, said this points to the importance of broad screening efforts.
“There are those at risk who never come into specialty care,” Ursano told Journalist’s Resource.
This research gets at how to better identify this population.
The study looked at administrative records belonging to a sample of 9,650 enlisted U.S. Army soldiers with a documented suicide attempt occurring between 2004 and 2009. Nearly three-quarters of the sample was male. The researchers looked at the risk factors among these soldiers, comparing the factors involved for those with and without a prior history of mental health concerns.
Veterans as a group are at a higher risk for suicide than civilian adults — 22 percent higher, according to a 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Nationally, across the whole population, suicide rates are increasing, according to statistics issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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This does not mean they did not have PTSD. It means they did not seek mental health help!