Previous research suggests that suicidal ideation may be higher among military-associated youth versus youth in the general population. However, in 2019 the Department of Defense reported that according to data collected in 2017, the overall suicide rate among military family members is about the same or less than the civilian population. In stark contrast, a recent study reported that nearly 25% of military connected students in California school had considered or attempted suicide. This rate was approximately 10% greater than their classmates over a 7-year period. Data was gathered from nearly 400,000 students in the 9th or 11th grade who completed the California Healthy Kids Survey. Bivariate comparisons and multivariate logistic analyses were performed to examine differences in suicidal ideation, plans, attempts, and attempts requiring medical attention between military and not military-connected youth. In multivariate logistic analyses, military-connected youth were at increased risk for suicidal ideation (OR = 1.43, 95 % CI = 1.37-1.49), making a plan to harm themselves (OR = 1.19, CI = 1.06-1.34), attempting suicide (OR = 1.67, CI = 1.43-1.95), and attempting suicide which required medical treatment (OR = 1.71, CI = 1.34-2.16). These results suggest that military-connected youth, at least in California, are at higher risk for suicidal ideation, plans, attempts, and attempts requiring medical care due to suicidal behaviors. These results contrast with the previously reported data in 2019 from the Department of Defense about suicide in military-associated youth.
The current findings should raise awareness about this vulnerable population. An active duty officer and psychiatrist in the United States Air Force recently lost her 16-year old daughter to suicide. At some point today, please take a moment to pause or reflect, in honor of the young girl who lost her life, and in appreciation of the mother who has served and will continue to serve her country. May this provide a reminder and spread awareness for all who are affected on International Suicide Survivor Day.
Gilreah TD et al. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2016;25:61-66.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org
United Suicide Survivors International: www.unitesurvivors.org