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Monday, July 30, 2012

High Suicide and PTSD Risk Seems Related To Combat

Da Nang, Vietnam. A young Marine private waits...
Da Nang, Vietnam. A young Marine private waits on the beach during the Marine landing, August 3, 1965. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
New research conducted at the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah indicates that the more severe combat a warrior experiences, the more likely he or she will attempt suicide at a later time. These results may seem obvious. It has long been thought that a connection existed; however, up to this time it has not been proven with empirical data.

On July 31, 2012, David Rudd, who serves as the center's director and dean of social and behavioral sciences for the University of Utah, will share his research with the Congressional Veterans Caucus in Washington.

The United States has been involved in non-stop military combat since the fall of 2001. Never in our history have we sent service people into combat for this extended period of time. Since the end of the Vietnam War our military has been an all voluntary force. This means that if a conflict is long lasting the enlistees return to combat over and over again for deployments that can last in excess of a year. 

244 veterans were surveyed by Rudd, working through the Student Veterans of America.The Salt Lake Tribune reports: "For those in his study who saw heavy combat, the findings are stark: 93 percent qualified for a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and nearly 70 percent had attempted suicide."

 Dr. Rudd offers:
"It makes it hard to argue the case anymore that, ‘Hey, people who haven’t deployed are trying to kill themselves,"... "Yes, they are, but … it’s a separate issue. What this paper helps articulate is there are two different populations of people."

This study seems to indicate that serving multiple stints for long periods of time does not provide to make the service people more resilient or more comfortable. Seeking mental health treatment can be a long and arduous process. Many people do not want to admit they want or need help. Also, many families are fearful of admitting that their loved one chose suicide as a solution. Often obituaries are simply written to say a loved one died suddenly or unexpectedly. One reason for disguising the cause of death is that some life insurance policies will not pay a benefit if the cause of death is suicide. Also most religions consider suicide to be a sinful act, even affecting burial rights. This perceived shame limits accurate data from being collected and statistics may continue to be skewed. 

It is very hard to work towards solving a problem when the gathering of facts is hindered by our cultural beliefs. Hopefully, Dr. Rudd's study will be a strong step forward in the solution.
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