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February 13, 2019

Reframing the Suicide Prevention Message for Military Personnel

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego, La Jolla
  • 2Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of California San Diego, La Jolla
  • 3Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute, University of California San Diego, La Jolla
  • 4Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 5Center for Studies of Traumatic Stress, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland
JAMA Psychiatry. 2019;76(5):466-468. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.3943

Suicide is a major worldwide public health problem. In the United States, death rates by suicide have incrementally increased by about a third since 2000 to their 2017 levels of 23.6 per 100 000 men and 6.7 per 100 000 women.1 Approximately 50 000 US residents died by suicide in 2017.1 This increase has been greater in recent years in the civilian sector than the military sector, leading to an approximate equalization of the 2017 suicide death rate of civilians with that of active-duty military personnel.2 The military suicide death rate was higher than the age-matched and sex-matched civilian rate for the prior decade.2 However, given that military personnel are healthier overall that the civilian population, other sources of death are low, leading to suicides accounting for a higher proportion of military than civilian deaths. In particular, 30% of US service member deaths unassociated with war since 2006 were the result of self-inflicted wounds,2 leading to a prioritized mission of suicide prevention in the US military.

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