Study examines the factors underlying suicides in the Army National Guard

Perspectives on suicide in the Army National Guard

From Armed Forces & Society

Studies report that since 2004, suicides rates in the U.S. Army have been on the rise. While researchers debate the cause, this study finds that among suicide cases from 2007 – 2010, young white males were more at risk than any other demographic. The authors analyzed data from the Army National Guard’s (ARNG) personnel data system, from a routine data collection of ARNG soldiers returning from deployment, and Army reserve soldiers’ responses to the 2009 Status of Forces Questionnaire. They found that 17-24 year-olds were an average of 1.59 times more likely to have committed suicide than their older peers, that males were 3.05 times more likely to have committed suicide than females, and that white soldiers were 1.85 times more likely to have committed suicide than other race groups. Researchers offered explanations for each of the three suicide patterns among ARNG soldiers. Researchers stated that they hoped their findings would help identify those who are at risk for suicide and concluded, “after identifying those at risk, soldiers need to be managed and provided appropriate support and care.”  Nevertheless, they also noted that this is complicated for reservists who spend most of their time in “part-time” or civilian status. As reservists now number about one-half the active duty Army, the researchers argued for more deliberate thought on how best to screen reserve soldiers who are at risk.

Abstract

Suicides in the US military were observed rising in 2004, most notably in the Army and Marine Corps, and particularly, in the Army National Guard (ARNG). Alarmed, Army leaders and researchers have offered various explanations and prescriptions, often lacking any evidence. In the present study, three data sets were used to examine evidence for various perspectives on suicide—dispositional risk, social cognitive, stressor-strain, and social cultural/institutional, each having different emphases on relevant explanatory variables and underlying mechanisms of suicide. Primary risk factors associated with having committed suicide among the 2007–2010 ARNG suicide cases were age (young), gender (male), and race (white), supporting the dispositional risk perspective on suicide. Some evidence supported the stressor-strain perspective in that postdeployment loss of a significant other and a major life change showed statistically significant, yet weaker associations with increased suicide intentions. Implications of results are discussed for future research and preventive strategies.

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Article details
Griffith, J., & Vaitkus, M. (2013). Perspectives on Suicide in the Army National Guard Armed Forces & Society DOI: 10.1177/0095327X12471333Tag

     
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