Study: Deployment not factor in military suicide rate increase

Study: Deployment not factor in military suicide rate increase

POSTED: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 9:18pm

UPDATED: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 7:59am

A new study of suicides is causing controversy in the military community. Researchers say that deployments to war zones and exposure to combat are not major factors behind increases in suicides among military personnel.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published the report, saying that a spike in suicides from 2001 to 2008 was not the result of deployment, but rather the same kind of circumstances found in the civilian world.

The researchers found among the 83 service members who committed suicide, 58% had never been deployed.

In 2012, suicides among active-duty troops hit a record 350, twice as many as a decade before. This according to authors of a new study that deployment factors like the length, number of deployments or combat experiences are not contributing to the rise of military suicides.

While the statistics support the study, some soldiers on post at Fort Bliss don't agree.

"War is a contributor to suicide. It is,” said MSG Edwin Stuart.

Medical researchers based at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, the authors of the study, stress that 12 years of war may have worn on all service members, deployed or not. Stuart is recovering from combat wounds through a program meant to help transition soldiers from war to civilian life.

"People writing these articles, have they been to war? Do they know? No. They don't," said Stuart.

He recalls a time in Afghanistan when he and a fellow soldier tried to rescue two pilots who crashed their helicopter. One pilot didn't make it.

"It was trauma. Trauma," said Stuart.

Mental health providers are warning that the study could oversimplify the situation and suggest that deployment has nothing to do with suicide.

"It's combat. It's the main thing, not the civilian world. The civilian world is another add on to the factors when a soldier comes home," said SGT Cruz Castro.

Stuart says statistics or not, the only people who can speak to the trauma of war and how it changes a life, are those that have lived through it.

"It's a change, and the mindset of a soldier that goes oversees and comes back home, their mind is still overseas," said Stuart.

The lead author of the study says she will update the study to include data through 2012 and is confident the conclusions will remain the same. Deployment is not a factor in the rise of military suicides.

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