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Medical News and Perspectives
October 6, 2010

Military Probes Epidemic of Suicide

JAMA. 2010;304(13):1427-1430. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1327

With 3 deployments under his belt and a slot waiting for him in the US Army's Drill Sergeant School, a 33-year-old sergeant first class stepped up his alcohol consumption and reported to friends and colleagues that he was having nightmares, slept with a gun under his pillow, and was depressed. About a month after he was supposed to have left for the training, he was found dead in his apartment from a gunshot wound to the head.

This vignette was one of many included in a July Army report on suicide prevention that described how a multitude of interacting factors—such as job and personal stress, psychiatric conditions, and brain injuries—are contributing to a continuing epidemic of suicide among returning soldiers (http://usarmy.vo.llnwd.net/e1/HPRRSP/HP-RR-SPReport2010_v00.pdf). The report calls for a variety of interventions, including increased discipline and accountability by military leaders, efforts to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health care, and a more robust primary care effort to identify and treat these patients.

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