In particular, there was a high concentration of suicide risk in the top five percent of highest-risk hospitalizations.
Since 2004, suicides among soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have doubled and, among soldiers that have never deployed, nearly tripled. USA Today reports that, historically, the Army suicide rate is lower than that of civilians. However, in 2008, the Army suicide rate surpassed the civilian suicide rate and has continued to climb. Numerous efforts are targeting suicides in this population, including research and public health measures.
A new study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, aims to predict suicides following a hospitalization for treatment of a psychiatric disorder. The researchers contend that understanding the risk of suicide is the first step in preventing suicides. The study concludes by noting that there is a high concentration of risk of suicide and other adverse outcomes following psychiatric hospitalization. Knowledge of this risk would help justify devoting resources to mitigating risk post-hospitalization.
According to Science Daily, the study looked at 53,769 regular Army soldiers during the 12-month period following their discharge from a psychiatric facility during 2004 to 2009. In particular, there was a high concentration of suicide risk in the top five percent of highest-risk hospitalizations. Finding ways to intervene with this sub-population could have a major impact on reducing suicides in soldiers.
The 2020 Army Strategy for Suicide Prevention sets out goals and processes for reducing and preventing suicide in the Army. Strategic areas focus on 1) increasing knowledge and empowerment in soldiers, their families, and communities; 2) providing clinical and community support services; 3) creating or improving services for treatment and recovery; and 4) gathering and analyzing data through surveillance, research, and evaluation. The report notes that, to be effective, the strategy must offer care that prevents, intervenes, and follows up. Together, these strategies can help reverse the alarming trend of suicides.