Suicide in the Military and Among Veterans


Since 2001, the rate of suicide in the military has more than tripled (Dittrich et al., 2015). Depression, Post- Traumatic Stress, and bipolar disorder share a strong association with suicide (Dittrich et al., 2015). These disorders are some of the causes of suicides in the military (for active and former soldiers) (Scoville, Gubata, Potter, White, & Pearse, 2007). The constant change of the social environment is part of the problem compounding the rise in suicide rates. More people are joining the army, coming from split homes and unstable family backgrounds (Scoville et al., 2007). Therefore, we must come up with methods and strategies that would help us lower the suicide rate in the military. Our hypothesis is that through early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health disorders, we can decrease suicide rates in the military population.

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Definition of mental disorders

Mental disorders refer to different types of health conditions that affect people’s mood, thinking and behaviors, within a given time (Dittrich et al., 2015). According to Angkaw et al. (2015), there are more than 200 types of mental disorders, but the most common ones that affect military and veterans include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and bipolar disorder. The ideal test for each disorder appears below

Ideal tests for each disorder


The ideal test for measuring PTSD is conducting interviews with possible victims of PTSD. This type of test is important in assessing the severity and frequency of symptoms associated with PTSD (Hendin, 2014). Here, the mental health expert would ask the respondent specific questions to evaluate whether he/she suffers from PTSD, or not. The questions would help the mental health expert to evaluate the effects of past adverse incidents of combat on their lives to determine its effects on the behavior and general health of the respondent (Hendin, 2014).


According to Kruijt et al. (2013), there are no physical tests to diagnose depression. Instead, the ideal test for diagnosing depression is asking specific questions to potential victims of mental health disorder to evaluate how their mental health is affecting their behavior and physical health (Hendin, 2014). In such interactions, the mental health expert would look for specific signs and symptoms that would explain whether a person suffers from depression, or not.

Bipolar Disorder

Similar to PTSD, the interview is the ideal tool for determining the presence of bipolar disorder among military personnel. Using this assessment technique, the mental health expert would ask a subject different questions, such as the nature of the family’s mental health history to assess whether the patient suffers from bipolar disorder, or not (Maguen et al., 2012).

Social environment/ family backgrounds in the military

Research studies have shown that different family backgrounds could affect people’s mental health (Scoville et al., 2007). In this paper, we analyzed the impact of raising military personnel in foster homes, single-parent families, and in families that have a military background on the mental health of the respondents.

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Materials and Methods

Study Participants

When we started this paper, we had a goal of including 300 participants in the study. However, because of logistical challenges, we reduced this number to 150 people. Most of the interviewees were male (80%), while the percentage of female participants was 20%. Most of the participants often came from unstable family backgrounds, with 40% of them reported growing up in foster homes, while 50% of them came from single parent families. The rest came from families that had a military background.


Bipolar Disorder

To assess bipolar disorder among our selected group of participants, we looked for signs of unwanted thoughts, delusion, lack of concentration, and racing thoughts, as common symptoms of bipolar disorder. We also looked for signs of slowness in activity and thought, and a false belief of superiority (as other symptoms of the disorder).


To assess PTSD, we looked for four types of PTSD symptoms. The first set of symptoms included thoughts of reliving the event (re-experiencing symptoms). The second set of symptoms we looked for included situational avoidance (avoiding situations that remind a respondent of the event). Symptoms included avoiding crowds because of danger, avoiding driving because of the fear of car accidents, avoiding movies that insinuate bad events, and thinking the world is dangerous. We also looked for negative changes in beliefs and feelings (what the respondents thought of themselves and others because of the trauma), staying away from relationships, not trusting people, forgetting about parts of the traumatic event and not being able to talk about it. Lastly, we also looked for feelings of hyper-arousal. Here, we investigated if the respondents always felt jittery, or were always alert and on the lookout for danger. We also sought to find out if they had a hard time sleeping, had trouble concentrating, or were startled by a loud noise and, perhaps, wanted to have their back against the wall in restaurants.


According to Hendin (2014), not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom associated with the disorder. Some people experience them more than others, or vice a versa. Over time, the symptoms can become more severe. Some of the symptoms we looked out for are, loss of interest in hobbies, worthlessness, feeling guilty ad thoughts of suicide.


Comparison of Participants and Symptoms


To assess bipolar disorder among our selected group of participants, we looked for signs of unwanted thoughts, delusion, lack of concentration, and racing thoughts, as common symptoms of bipolar disorder. The results appear below

NB: The figures are in percentage.


The common symptoms of depression we observed from the participants include loss of interest in hobbies, worthlessness, feeling guilty ad thoughts of suicide. The results appear below

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NB: The figures are in percentage.


The main symptoms, which manifested during our analysis of PTSD, include reliving the event, avoidance of a reminder of the event, jittery feelings, and hyper-arousal. The findings appear below

NB: The figures are in percentage.

Comparison of participants and suicide thoughts

The graph below represents the percentage of respondents who had suicidal thoughts

Comparison of participants and suicide thoughts

Comparison of family background with problems vs. “normal” household

In our assessment, we found that most respondents who came from family backgrounds with problems had a higher probability of committing suicide compared to those who came from “normal” backgrounds. The findings appear below

Comparison of family background with problems vs. “normal” household

Which disorder is more likely to cause suicidal thoughts?

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In our assessment, we found that PTSD had the strongest link with suicide attempts (Hendin 2014).

Which symptom is involved in each disorder?

Withdrawal was the most common symptom in each disorder that could possibly predict suicidal thoughts among the respondents

What we can do to Lower the Suicide Rate among Active Military Personnel and Veterans?

Early detection and intervention emerged as the most effective way of lowering the risk of suicide among actively serving military personnel and veterans (Scoville et al., 2007). However, the success of this strategy mostly depends on people’s awareness of the symptoms to look out for when a person has suicidal thoughts. Indeed, without knowing these symptoms, it is difficult to act, or categorize such a person as a suicidal individual. Through effective diagnosis, we could find out the best treatment methods to help the service members overcome their suicidal thoughts. Comprehensively, this paper shows that preventive strategies are the best methods to lower the suicide rate among serving military personnel and veterans.


In this paper, we have found out that successful testing will allow us to see what signs and symptoms can cause the highest suicide rates in the military and in the veteran community. Therefore, we find grounds to support our hypothesis. The charts provided a comparison of the differences between the participants versus the symptoms, disorders, family backgrounds’ and suicide rates. Comprehensively, the findings of this study could create social change because we may easily know what symptoms will trigger suicide thoughts and determine the best strategy to lower suicide rates between active military personnel and veterans. The findings of this study could also help mental health professionals in the Veteran Association to learn, develop, and test treatment approaches to PTSD that will work.


Angkaw, A. C., Haller, M., Pittman, J. E., Nunnink, S. E., Norman, S. B., Lemmer, J. A., &… Baker, D. G. (2015). Alcohol-Related Consequences Mediating PTSD.

Symptoms and Mental Health-Related Quality of Life in OEF/OIF Combat Veterans. Military Medicine, 180(6), 670-675. Web.

Dittrich, K. A., Lutfiyya, M. N., Kucharyski, C. J., Grygelko, J. T., Dillon, C. L., Hill, T. J., &… Huot, K. L. (2015). A Population-Based Cross-Sectional Study Comparing Depression and Health Service Deficits Between Rural and Nonrural U.S. Military Veterans. Military Medicine, 180(4), 428-435. Web.

Hendin, H. (2014). An Innovative Approach to Treating Combat Veterans with PTSD at Risk for Suicide. Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior, 44(5), 582-590. Web.

Kruijt, A., Antypa, N., Booij, L., de Jong, P. J., Glashouwer, K., Penninx, B. H., & Van der Does, W. (2013). Cognitive Reactivity, Implicit Associations, and the Incidence of Depression: A Two-Year Prospective Study. Plos ONE, 8(7), 1-6.

Maguen, S., Metzler, T. J., Bosch, J., Marmar, C. R., Knight, S. J., & Neylan, T. C. (2012). Killing In Combat May Be Independently Associated With Suicidal Ideation. Depression & Anxiety (1091-4269), 29(11), 918-923. Web.

Scoville, S. L., Gubata, M. E., Potter, R. N., White, M. J., & Pearse, L. A. (2007). Deaths Attributed to Suicide among Enlisted U.S. Armed Forces Recruits, 1980- 2004. Military Medicine, 172(10), 1024-1031.

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