| Ander Nieuws week 24 / Midden-Oosten 2012 |
Study: 13% of deployed Marines consider suicide

Marine Times
May 31, 2012
Gidget Fuentes
More than one in 10 Marines who deployed overseas reported having suicidal thoughts or plans to attempt suicide, according to a study looking at suicidal predictors.
As part of the study, which was briefed at the Navy-Marine Corps Combat Operational Stress conference here in late May, researchers sought to identify potential links to suicidal behavior that may have been evident within a month before a Marine attempted to take his life. They analyzed variables such as post-traumatic stress symptoms, depression, substance or alcohol abuse, and social support, looking also at "negative life events," such as trauma prior to deploying, combat exposure and the "mundane" worries of everyday life.
"In our sample, unfortunately, 13 percent of people reported some type of suicidal thoughts or plans," said Cynthia Thomsen, a research psychologist with the Naval Health Research Center.
The anonymous study of 1,517 active-duty Marines and sailors was conducted in 2006-2007. A wide cross-section of the Corps was represented, including the infantry, aviation and combat support communities. Most participants were male (93 percent) and from the junior enlisted ranks (E-1 to E-4). Nearly half had done more than one overseas deployment, but 11 percent were not combat-related.
The "most potent combination" for predicting suicidal thoughts and behavior, Thomsen said, was seen in Marines who experienced a great deal of combat and suffered from PTSD, depression or drug use. And those who reported both severe PTSD and high depression were "the people most at-risk for suicidal behavior," she said.
Other findings include:
  • Higher levels of combat exposure led to more PTSD symptoms and alcohol use, and these individuals reported they had less social support.
  • Marines and sailors suffering from PTSD, depression and substance abuse "were more likely to report suicidal thoughts or plans," she said.
  • Those with strong social support "were less likely" to report suicidal thoughts or plans, she said.
  • Deployment stressors, which can include worries about spouses and personal finances at home, or dangers such as heat and bugs in the war zone, were "significantly related," Thomsen said.
  • Pre-deployment trauma was a significant factor for those suffering from PTSD, depression, alcohol use or reporting poor social support, she said, but it wasn't linked to those who used illegal drugs.
  • One surprise was "alcohol problems did not emerge as a predictor of suicidal behavior," Thomsen said. "This is really at odds with a lot of what we hear."
  • Another surprising finding: Lack of social support was "not a strong predictor," she said, which is at odds with conventional thinking.
Marine officials want to institutionalize a new way of thinking about fitness, to include not only the physical aspects of wellness but also the mental, spiritual and social. Social fitness is the latest pillar in what officials are calling "Marine Total Fitness," a holistic approach to steeling Marines and their families for the rigors of military life.
"This is intended to be interwoven into the Marine Corps culture, in everything Marines do," said Brig. Gen. Robert Hedelund, director of the Marine and Family Programs Division at Manpower and Reserve Affairs in Quantico, Va.
Initiatives are underway, including increased injury prevention, new premarital training, improved nutrition standards and a push to bolster unit cohesion and morale. All are designed to give Marines, and their commanders and families, more tools to help them manage life in the Corps.
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| Ander Nieuws week 24 / Midden-Oosten 2012 |