The suicide rate in the U.S. Army now exceeds the rate in the general population, and psychiatric admission is now the most common reason for hospitalization in the Army. These concerning trends are described by Timothy Lineberry, M.D., a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist and suicide expert for the Army, in the September edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. In the article, he also outlines steps to assess and address military suicide -- an issue he calls a major public health concern. Dr. Lineberry proposes greater use of gun locks, improving primary care for depression, and better monitoring for sleep disturbances, among other steps.
"Despite the anticipated end of large-scale military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the effects on the mental health of active-duty service members, reservists, and veterans is only just beginning to be felt," Dr. Lineberry says. "Moreover, the potential effect on service members of their war experiences may manifest indefinitely into the future in the form of emerging psychiatric illnesses."
In the article, Dr. Lineberry integrates published research on increased rates of psychiatric illness in the military during the past decade and highlights the need for ongoing resources for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. While the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense have already invested millions of dollars into military suicide prevention and research, some key clinical steps can also be taken to tackle the problem.
Dr. Lineberry outlines four steps based on past research and emerging evidence that he believes could help begin curbing military suicide: