Veterans and current military personnel have a higher rate of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder than do non military, states Peter Gutierrez, the co-director of the Military Suicide Research Consortium inColorado. Individuals with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder are more prone to suicidal and self-harming behaviors. Gutierrez’s consortium has paired with theU.S. military and additional research scientists to work to better understand and prevent self-harming behaviors and suicidal acts.
According to recent data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of suicide attempts and other self-harming behaviors among veterans who served inAfghanistan andIraq was at the highest levels for two years after active duty and declined 50 percent between four and six years after active duty had ended.
“Our veterans need a broad and comprehensive support system to help them transition to civilian life and get the assistance they need,” stated veterans attorney James Fausone.
Still not widely understood is whether currently returning veterans, those who served inAfghanistanandIraq, have a higher rate of suicide compared to other veteran groups from previous wars. A study from the VA released this summer determined that the suicide risk for veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq who have been diagnosed with one or more mental health issues condition was four times higher was four times higher than for veterans without a diagnosed mental health issue. Additionally, male veterans were found to be more than 200 percent more likely to commit suicide than males who were not military veterans.
The risk for suicide does not seem to significantly decrease for veterans who pursue higher education. According to a study from the University of Utah, “Student Veterans: A National Survey Exploring Psychological Symptoms and Suicide Risk,” presented to the American Psychological Association, almost 50 percent of currently enrolled college students who served in the military have reported that they have considered suicide, a rate dramatically higher than for those college students who are not veterans. The need for adequate mental health support both for nonstudent and student veterans is of utmost importance, said study head, M. David Rudd. Researchers surveyed more than 500 veterans; 98 percent served in wars inAfghanistan orIraq. Of those surveyed, almost 50 percent reported suicidal thinking, 20 percent indicated that they had experienced not only suicidal thoughts but also a plan.