Study seeks clues to soldier suicides

The military is trying to find the cause of suicide in soldiers’ genes or psychological profiles?  Why isn’t the military looking at the insanity of militarism and war itself.

I spent two hours last night talking with a vet who was harassed, isolated and tormented by his chain of command in Iraq to the point that he took his rifle and nearly blew his brains out, and all because he had reported his superiors for violations.  Instead of immediate mental health attention, this soldier was charged with assault against an officer.   The military culture can easily slip into a corrupt gangsterism. After that, it”s not far to the abuses of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

On the Honolulu Advertiser website comments, HawaiiRon summed it up well:

take a sane person, teach him to kill and place him in an insane situation. How many times can you look into the eyes of another and pull the trigger before you go insane?

I am a Viet Nam era veteran, I never saw combat but I have talked to enough combat veterans to see the pain in their eyes and I hear it in their voices. killing is not normal … it’s opposite of what we are told all our lives .. even knowing you can kill scars you.. screw the study, take the 50 million and provide mental health care for all veterans … PTSD is a killer of military families.


Updated at 7:55 a.m., Monday, August 10, 2009

Study seeks clues to soldier suicides

Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Doctors leading the largest study ever of suicide and mental health among military personnel are developing intensive soldier surveys that they hope will provide clues as to why suicide rates among Army personnel have grown dramatically in recent years.

The study, a collaboration between the National Institute of Mental Health and the Army, will seek data from every soldier recruited into the Army over the next three years as well as from about 90,000 soldiers already in the service, and the project could eventually involve half a million participants.

The soldiers will be asked to volunteer personal information that can be used to make psychological assessments. Family members might be contacted. In some cases, saliva and blood samples will be collected for genetic and neurobiological studies.

The information will serve as an “ongoing natural laboratory,” officials said, as researchers follow these soldiers for years, looking for commons strands as to which individuals are more likely to commit suicide.

“We’re looking at suicide as the culmination of a long chain of events,” said Robert Heinssen, the NIMH study director.

In 2008, 143 soldiers committed suicide, the highest number in the three decades that the Army has kept records.

“The most frustrating thing is trying to find a cause,” Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 30.

The five-year, $50 million study, which stems from an agreement in October between the Army and NIMH, is an ambitious attempt to solve the mystery.

Last month, Robert Ursano, chairman of the psychiatry department at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., was named to lead an interdisciplinary team of four research institutions involved in the project.

The study will be “complex in its design, and it’s looking at a rare phenomenon,” Ursano said.

A number of factors may play roles in suicide, according to Ursano, including post-traumatic stress disorder, family issues, alcohol abuse, and neurobiological factors.

Repeated deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere since 2001 is another factor, but one that does not by itself account for the increases in suicide, Ursano said.

“It’s a much more complex aggregate of factors,” Ursano said. “Deployment increases the stress on a family, but it’s clearly not the deciding factor.”

While the study will continue for years, the researchers are expected to quickly identify and report on potential risk factors to help the Army prevent suicide.


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