For years now, the suicide rate among U.S. veterans has been rising. It's not as simple as saying that combat deployments lead to suicide. According to major new research, the problem seems to be rooted much more broadly within the military.
What is driving the increasing military suicide rate? The studies released today do not provide any easy answers—but it does help eliminate some simplistic theories. First, the state of the problem, from USA Today:
Among key findings: while suicide rates for soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan more than doubled from 2004 to 2009 to more than 30-per-100,000, the trend among those who never deployed nearly tripled to between 25- and 30-per-100,000.
Rates for a civilian population of similar age and demographics remained steady at 19-per-100,000 during this time. The Army suicide rate, historically far lower than the civilian figure, surpassed it in 2008 and kept climbing.
The rates of soldiers who report having suicidal thoughts is similar to the rate among civilians. But the military population as a whole does carry some warning signs: the rate of "impulsive anger" is more than five times higher among soldiers than civilians, and the overall rate of psychiatric disorders is twice as high. About a fourth of all soldiers have at least one psychiatric disorder, according to the studies. And half of those developed after enlistment.
The practice of stop-loss, which forced soldiers to stay in the military longer than their contracts due to time of war, was not found to be a contributing factor to the suicide rate.
Any brilliant insights are welcome in the discussion section below.