Study Traces U.S. Military Suicides to Childhood Abuse

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A study suggests that past traumatic experiences cause U.S. military service members and veterans to commit suicide.

Researchers believe the high suicide rate among soldiers came from their traumatic experiences before they enlisted.

These previous experiences seem to have caused U.S. soldiers to acquire suicidal behaviors when they cope with combat and deployment.

Researchers at the American Psychological Association 122nd Annual Convention said suicidal behaviors are common among abused children and sexually abused victims who enlist in the military.

James Griffith, a retired Army Coronel, said soldiers who reported abuse as children where three to eight times more likely than those who were not abused to have suicidal behaviors.

He explained that experiences of abuse in early life can lead to tendency to experience stressful events as catastrophic and insurmountable.

Griffith explains that children who are victims of abuse had little opportunity to effectively cope with stress.

This could lead a child to grow up with less ability to handle stressful circumstances, he said.

Soldiers who were sexually abused in or out of the military also increased the chances of a soldier having suicidal thought and behavior. Researchers noted it isn’t just female soldiers but also male soldiers.

Craig Bryan, one of the researchers, said previous research shows that male soldiers who experienced sexual trauma were less likely to seek mental health care.

He said men see being sexually abused as shameful and a threat to their masculinity, which causes them to attempt suicide.

Bobbie Ray-Sannerud, a  former Air Force psychologist, said U.S. soldiers who attempted suicide before they enlisted are six time more likely to attempt suicide once they join the military.

Sannerud believes knowing how vulnerable military personnel are to suicide is important for military screening.

Since 2012, there have been 319 suicides among active military personnel while there have been 203 suicides among reserve personnel.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among U.S. military personnel, researchers said.