A study released Friday has found that demographics, and the ending of a relationship—and not deployment status—are most closely associated with suicides in the Army National Guard.
Between 2007 and 2010, 294 members of the Army National Guard committed suicide. The suicide rate for members of the National Guard was higher than that of members of the active Army (1 in 3,225 National Guard committed suicide, compared to 1 in 4,000 for the Army.) The suicide rate in the general population is 1 in 5,000.
The report was published in Armed Forces & Society, a military studies journal, and was written by Army Research Psychologists James Griffith and Mark Vaitkus. "Primary risk factors associated with having committed suicide among the 2007-2010 [National Guard] suicide cases were age (young), gender (male), and race (white)," according to the report. People who fall into that group are also most likely to commit suicide in the general population.
The report found very little relationship between whether a soldier had faced active combat and whether they committed suicide, but the study suggests that problems at home that may be associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder could have an impact on whether a soldier takes his or her own life.
"Military-related variables, including having been deployed and combat exposure, showed little relationship to suicide," the report says. "There was some evidence that postdeployment stressors were associated with suicide intentions, namely, loss of significant other and major life change."
The report suggests that "with a loss of a significant other, the soldier could feel a lack of belonging and like a burden to others, and over time through habituating to pain, [will] commit suicide."
Suicide in the military has increasingly stumped experts—rates are increasing—but the study's authors suggest that there is a "personal, though not fully understood, disposition to being at risk for suicide."
"Having been deployed and combat exposure can be traumatic for some soldiers, often leading to behavioral health conditions, such as PTSD and depression," they write. "Yet, most soldiers will be exposed to such events without negative behavioral health consequences."