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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Risk for suicidal behaviors associated with PTSD, depression, and their comorbidity in the U.S. Army

Holly J Ramsawh, Carol S Fullerton, Holly B Herberman Mash, Tsz Hin H Ng, Ronald C Kessler, Murray B Stein, Robert J Ursano
Journal of Affective Disorders 2014, 161: 116-22
24751318

BACKGROUND: Suicide rates have risen considerably in the United States Army in the past decade. Suicide risk is highest among those with past suicidality (suicidal ideation or attempts). The incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive illnesses has risen concurrently in the U.S. Army. We examined the relationship of PTSD and depression, independently and in combination, and rates of past-year suicidality in a representative sample of U.S. Army soldiers.

METHODS: This study used the DoD Survey of Health Related Behaviors Among Active Duty Military Personnel (DoD HRB) (N=5927). Probable PTSD and depression were assessed with the PTSD Checklist (PCL) and the 10-item short form of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), respectively. Past-year suicidality was assessed via self-report.

RESULTS: Six percent of Army service members reported suicidality within the past year. PTSD and MDD were each independently associated with past-year suicidality. Soldiers with both disorders were almost three times more likely to report suicidality within the past year than those with either diagnosis alone. Population-attributable risk proportions for PTSD, depression, and both disorders together were 24%, 29%, and 45%, respectively.

LIMITATIONS: The current study is subject to the limitations of a cross-sectional survey design and the self-report nature of the instruments used.

CONCLUSIONS: PTSD and depression are each associated with suicidality independently and in combination in the active duty component of the U.S. Army. Soldiers presenting with either but especially both disorders may require additional outreach and screening to decrease suicidal ideation and attempts.

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