It appears that a new US Army analytical tool will help reduce number of suicides committed by soldiers. The tool is meant to identify soldiers that can take their own lives by assessing various factors, including history, age and injuries. Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D., of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues report their findings on Nov. 12, in JAMA Psychiatry. Army STARRS is a partnership between the Army and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health.
The study uses a mathematic model known as an algorithm, in order to determine how many soldiers out of a study sample of 40,000 Army soldiers hospitalized for psychiatric complications between 2004 and 2009 would actually take their own lives. Analyzing soldiers’ characteristics and experiences, researchers identified the 5 percent of soldiers with the highest predicted risk of suicide after leaving the hospital. This top 5 percent accounted for 52.9 percent of the post-hospital suicides. Soldiers in the top 5 percent also accounted for a greater proportion of accident deaths, suicide attempts, and re-hospitalizations.
However the risk model is unlikely to be immediately useful in civilian hospitals, which do not have nearly as much personal data on patients as the military does. It’s known that people who are admitted to hospitals with a psychiatric diagnosis are at increased risk for suicide after their release. But even among this high-risk group, suicide is quite uncommon.
Throughout the new study, 68 soldiers died by suicide within a year of being released from the hospital. That translates to a rate of 264 suicides per 100,000 hospitalized soldiers per year, compared with the rate of 18.5 suicides per 100,000 soldiers per year among all U.S. Army soldiers.
“The Army is working through complex privacy and ethical concerns regarding the use of these types of data, as well as updating the data from today’s soldiers,” Lt. Col. Ben Garrett, an Army spokesman said. “Use of the risk model will enhance the Army’s ability to provide services to soldiers at elevated risk.”
All in all, the Army has been psychologically healthier than the rest of society because of screening, fitness standards and access to health care. But in spite of this, army suicides began rising in 2004, reaching record peak in 2012 and 2013 as being the leading cause of death, therefore surpassing war, heart disease, homicide, car accidents and other causes.
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