Bottom Line: Among nearly 4,000 U.S. Army soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, 11.7% reported suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives, 3.0% within the past year and 1.9% within the past 30 days on questionnaires completed at the midpoint of their deployment in 2012. This observational study used the questionnaires to analyze how common suicidal ideation and mental health disorders were during combat deployment and to examine the associated risk factors. The study is unique in its assessment of soldiers' self-reported suicidal ideation and mental health disorders at the midpoint of deployment, a period when risk for suicide attempts appears to peak. The authors report risk factors associated with recent suicidal thoughts during deployment included being white, past noncombat trauma and past major depressive disorder. Limitations of the study include self-reported data and findings that may not generalize to other soldiers or civilians. The authors suggest major depressive disorder and noncombat trauma are important factors for identifying risk of suicidal thoughts during combat deployments.
Authors: Robert J. Ursano, M.D., Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, and coauthors
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