Suicide among post-9/11 veterans rose more than tenfold from 2006 to 2020 even as the rate remained relatively flat in the general U.S. adult population, according to a new review of 2.5 million service member records.
The findings were even more startling for veterans diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury – those veterans had suicide rates 56% higher than those without a head injury and three times higher than the general population.
That U.S. veterans struggle with brain injuries, mental health conditions and suicide is not news. Military service was, before 2008, a protective factor against suicide, with troops having lower rates than their civilian counterparts. But since that year, which coincided with a surge in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, suicide rates have risen steadily, despite enormous efforts by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to prevent the deaths.
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The retrospective study, published Monday in JAMA Neurology, appears to show that those multimillion-dollar suicide prevention initiatives and programs have had little impact.
“We were pretty stunned, honestly. Even though this is just a descriptive analysis, the trends are so alarming we felt we needed to report it as soon as possible,” said Jeffrey Howard, an associate professor of public health at the University of Texas…