Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Suicide Risk Factors Differ for Women in Military

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Suicide Risk Factors Differ for Women in Military

Article excerpt


WASHINGTON -- Women service personnel face different suicide risks from their civilian counterparts, Department of Defense appointee reports.

Data are few about suicide among women in the military--in part because not much research has been conducted over the years into service women's health outcomes--according to Jacqueline Garrick. But insights gleaned from the reports of military women, both active duty and veterans, who survived suicide attempts, shed light on what to look for as risk factors. Ms. Garrick, special assistant, Manpower and Reserve Affairs in the Department of Defense, made her comments during a panel discussion at the American Psychiatric Association's Institute on Psychiatric Services.

One of the most salient of suicide risks can emerge when a service woman's intimate relationship ends. This loss is compounded by the absence of social support that results from the military's inherently masculine environment where "fitting in is definitely harder for women," said Ms. Garrick, a licensed clinical social worker, U.S. Army veteran, and policy analyst.

Deployment and combat zone traumas are other risk factors. Horrors witnessed in war can have psychological implications for men and women personnel. But for women, who also possibly face additional concerns of sexual assault and lack of social support, the traumas can become debilitating and lead to risk of suicide, Ms. Garrick said.

Women in the military overlap with civilians in their suicide risk factors where mental health history, abuse, and exposure to suicide are concerned, but where the two cohorts particularly diverge, Ms. Garrick said, is access to lethal means, particularly among women veterans. Civilian women who attempt suicide are more likely to cut themselves or overdose on drugs, whereas, "Military women have firearms, and they know how to use them," Ms. Garrick said. "So, if you're screening [for suicide in this population], pay close attention to whether there are weapons in the home."

Traumatic brain injury is another area in which risks for suicide in military women could exist, but not enough is known at this point, Ms. …

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