Is Risk of Suicide Attempt Among Soldiers Associated with Time Before, During or After Deployments?

Bottom Line: Early first deployment and a shorter length of time between deployments were associated with a higher risk of suicide attempt among soldiers with two deployments regardless of previous mental health diagnosis and other military service-related or sociodemographic factors.

Why The Research Is Interesting: Time spent in the service before a first deployment, the duration of deployment and the length of time between deployments (known as dwell time) may affect mental health but not much attention has been paid to these factors in studies of military suicide risk.

Who and When: 593 soldiers with a medically documented suicide attempt during or after their second deployment identified from administrative data and a comparison sample of other soldiers with two deployments

What (Study Measures): Suicide attempts during or after a second deployment were identified using Department of Defense records and diagnostic codes; the study used administrative data from the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS)

How (Study Design): This was an observational study. Because researchers were not intervening for purposes of the study they cannot control natural differences that could explain the study findings.

Authors: Robert J. Ursano, M.D., of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, and coauthors

Results: Risk of suicide attempt during or after a second deployment was higher among soldiers whose first deployment was within the first 12 months they were in the service and among those soldiers with six months or less between deployments. The duration of a first deployment wasn’t associated with a subsequent suicide attempt.

Study Limitations: Administrative data may be incomplete or inaccurate; suicide attempt and mental health records also are subject to error

Study Conclusions: 

 

 

 

For more details and to read the full study, please visit the For The Media website.

(doi:10.1001/ jamapsychiatry.2018.0296)