[YSPNetwork] FYI: Army and NIMH team up
Donna.Noonan at state.or.us
Fri Oct 31 08:49:17 PST 2008
FYI, see New York Times article below or go to
October 30, 2008
Army and Agency Will Study Rising Suicide Rate Among Soldiers By
Conceding it needed outside help in figuring out why the suicide rate
among service members was rising, the Army announced plans on Wednesday
to collaborate with the National Institute of Mental Health in an
ambitious five-year project to identify the causes and risk factors of
The Army will make thousands of soldiers available to researchers for
interviews and will provide access to its many databases, including
those with medical, personnel, criminal and deployment histories.
Researchers will draw from a cross section of the Army and will include
soldiers who have just joined the service or are training for war and
those who have returned from war.
Rather than wait until the study is completed, the National Institute
of Mental Health will provide the Army with new information as
researchers find it in the hopes of preventing soldier suicides.
Peter Geren, the secretary of the Army, described the five-year, $50
million study as a *landmark undertaking* modeled after the Framingham
Heart Study. That influential study looked at heart health over a long
period of time among a large group of participants who had not yet
developed symptoms or suffered a heart attack.
*The goal is to build resiliency and to prevent suicide,* said Mr.
Geren, who approached the National Institute of Mental Health with the
idea to partner on the project.
Suicides in the Army have been climbing since the 2003 invasion of
Iraq. In 2007, 115 soldiers killed themselves, a rate of 18.1 per
100,000 people, or 1 percent lower than the civilian rate.
Of the 115, 36 soldiers killed themselves while deployed overseas, 50
had deployed at some point before the act and returned, and 29 had never
deployed. Only a fraction had a prior diagnosis of post-traumatic stress
The pace of suicides by soldiers in 2008 could eclipse last year*s. As
of August, the number stood at 62 confirmed cases in the Army. An
additional 31 deaths appear to be suicides and are under investigation.
Dr. S. Ward Cassells, assistant secretary of defense for health
affairs, said the Army was familiar with the most common triggers:
marital or relationship problems, poor job performance, feelings of
failure on the battlefield and alcohol or drug abuse. Yet, in half the
cases, Dr. Cassells said, the Army cannot figure out why the suicide
*We*ve reached a point where we do need some outside help,* Dr.
Cassells said. *We*ve learned a lot. We*ve also learned we don*t
understand it all.*
Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental
Health, said researchers would study, among other things, the role that
combat and multiple deployments play in suicide. They will conduct
follow-up surveys of soldiers to show how risk factors evolve over time
and shift their focus, as they see fit, depending on what they find. The
study also will look at existing treatments and gauge their
The findings could be far-reaching not just for the Army but for
civilians, as well, Dr. Insel said.
*The Army really is a microcosm of the nation,* he said.
Noonan, MPH, CHES
Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator
Injury Prevention & Epidemiology Program
Oregon Public Health Division
800 NE Oregon, Ste 772
Portland, OR 97232
donna.noonan at state.or.us
http://oregon.gov/dhs/ph/ipe/ysp/index.shtml Join YSPNetwork, Youth
Suicide Prevention listserv for the Pacific Northwest at
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