Risk Factors for Self-Directed Violence in US Soldiers

Unfortunately, over the past few years the number of military suicides, whether during active duty or among veterans, as well as other forms of self-directed violence, has risen drastically.  Regrettably to this point, there has been no research that has made use of military surveillance data to determine the risk factors in these individuals. That is not to say however that there are no discernable risk factors to be on the lookout for.

Factors at home place veterans at risk

In one study more than 276 cases (involving self-directed violence) were compared to 247 control subjects.  What began to shine through was that it was not as much about what had happened on the battlefield, but rather the things closer to home that may play major roles in self-directed violence among soldiers. The patterns that arose among suicide attempters and decedents (with far more frequency than control cases) were things like legal problems, failed intimate relationships and substance abuse within 3 months. Also frequent were the presence of mood disorders, and prior attempts on their life.

This may seem fairly straight forward, that makes it no less crucial, though. Currently, early detection and risk assessments are not as practical nor effective as they could be. Ideally, there will be a breakthrough with suicide risk assessment tools that will allow them to accurately account for differing risk factors from case to case. Further, if these assessments were able to draw correlations between multiple risk factors and how they interact with one another. Moving forward it will be imperative that risk assessment tools be able to discern the difference between high and low-risk persons in terms of suicidal self-directed violence.

Early detection of issues helps lower risk

Until such a time that these risk assessments tools are more effective though it is imperative that everyone with at-risk veterans or active duty military personnel close to them remain vigilant. Early detection of suicide risk factors including, relationship problems, legal problems, financial distress, mood disorders and substance abuse can go a long way towards preventing, or at least lessening the frequency of self-directed violence in US soldiers and our veterans.

This can be applied to more than just soldiers as well. Suicide (and other self-directed violence) is a major health concern in the country. Annually over 36,000 lives are claimed by self-directed violence, that is very nearly 100 people per day that commit suicide or other forms of self-directed violence.

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Latest update: October 15, 2016
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