A Suicide Attempt in an Army Unit Can Lead to More, Study Finds

August 11, 2017

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News


New research suggests that a history of suicide attempts in an army unit can place unit members at increased risk for suicide. Researchers examined data from the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service Members (STARRS) and found that the risk of suicide attempts among soldiers increased as the number of attempts in their unit in the past year increased. The association was significant regardless of individual factors, such as soldiers’ age and occupation, and unit size, but was especially pronounced in smaller units. According to experts, these findings demonstrate the importance of postvention efforts, i.e., an organized response to a suicide that minimizes the negative effects of exposure. “It’s really important to implement postvention protocols after there’s a suicide attempt,” said Kim Ruocco, chief external relations officer for suicide prevention and postvention for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). “That would include . . . supporting the attempt survivor by maintaining a sense of belongingness and purpose within the unit while they are receiving the care they need, and identifying anything within the unit that increases risk.” Army STARRS data were collected between 2004 and 2009, when the U.S. was involved in military conflicts. Researchers plan to investigate whether the findings of the study are consistent after 2009.

Spark Extra! Read the full research study.