Military Connection: Study ties Veteran Suicide to Early Separations

military suicide

By Debbie Gregory.

A recent study found that there is no link between military/Veteran suicides and deployments, but surprisingly, connects high suicide rates to early separation.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Department of Defense’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2). The researchers collected data on the 3.9 million men and women who served in the U.S. military between October, 2001, through December, 2009, during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The research found that even though the suicide rate among these service members had increased, the rate for those among them who deployed to a combat zone were not much different than those who did not deploy.

For the study, researchers reviewed the records of all personnel who served from Oct. 7, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2007, using materials obtained from the Defense Manpower Data Center, as well as death records from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner system and the National Death Index.

The research found that 3,945,099 individuals served during this time period. They also found that of the 31,962 of these individuals who have died during the six-year study, 5,041 of them were documented suicides. Of the suicides, 3,879 of them were committed by individuals who did not deploy.

The study found that service members who were at the highest risk for suicide were those who served for less than their full enlistment in the military. There was apparently an extremely high suicide rate among those who served for less than three years. The T2 research also found that the suicide rate among those who served less than a year, between 2001 and 2009, was two and half times greater than those who complete a full enlistment.

The research was designed to determine why these individuals were more prone to suicide. But the researchers do speculate, based on combining their data with previous research, that secondary problems (such as legal matters, injuries, substance abuse or mental health conditions) may have led to their early separation from the military and could have also contributed to their suicidal tendencies.

But for some, it could have been the transition itself that led them to take their own life. With separation from the military comes the loss of identity, loss of social support network, trouble finding meaningful and sustainable employment, or feeling like they don’t fit or are a burden to their loved ones or on society.

For more about the study visit the T2 website.

For more information on Veteran suicides or to seek help for yourself or a Veteran in crisis visit or call 1(800) 273- 8255 [then press 1] or text 838255.

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