By Debbie Gregory.
For the last few years of the war in Afghanistan, suicide rates were much higher than the casualty rates. Across the Department of Defense, all of the military branches have been actively and aggressively developing and reworking their suicide prevention programs. The Army has consistently seen the highest suicide rate among the service branches, often doubling the totals of the other branches. Looking towards the future, the Army is pouring a lot of funding and resources into reducing the suicide rate among its soldiers.
In 2010, the branch committed to a five year, $65 million program called the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service members (Army STARRS). The Army STARRS program, which runs through the end of this month, intended to identify the factors that both put soldiers at risk for suicide, as well as the factors that protect them from committing self-harm.
The Army partnered with the National Institute of Mental Health and several educational institutions across the country in this effort to collect data to be used to in the effort to reduce suicides among soldiers. These research partners will ultimately analyze approximately 1.1 billion pieces of data, including Army records from 39 different DOD databases. The research will span everything from personnel records to criminal records to medical records, looking at factors such as family history and secondary conditions that could factor in suicide risk or prevention rates.
In an effort to nail down high risk factors among all of its personnel, Army STARRS consists of five study components: the Historical Administrative Data Study, New Soldier Study, All Army Study, Soldier Health Outcomes Study and Special Studies.
Since its implementation, Army STARRS has identified over 4,200 soldiers that were deemed to be at a higher risk of suicide. The detailed findings will be published at the conclusion of the analysis.
As a nation, we mourn the loss of every fallen service member. We also owe it to the men and women who serve to try to prevent future losses, especially when it comes to suicide. With the amount of effort and resources being put into this research, we can be hopeful that Army STARRS’ findings will have an impact on suicide prevention, for the Army, all service branches, and the nation as a whole.
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Military Connection: Army’s $65 Million Suicide Research: By Debbie Gregory