Military Deployments and Suicide: A Critical Examination

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Deployment to a combat zone is a fundamental mission for most military forces, but prior research suggests that there is a complex and nuanced association between deployment and related risk factors for suicide. Deployment and combat experiences vary greatly among military personnel and can affect a variety of protective and risk factors for suicide. This article offers a critical examination of the association among modern U.S. military deployments, suicide attempts, and death while considering the context of a prominent theory of suicide. Although previous work has demonstrated that deployment is not associated with suicide overall in this population, there is growing evidence that risk may be elevated shortly after deployment, and for some subgroups. Specific aspects of combat exposure, including the experience of killing or witnessing death in combat, may be important contributing factors. An analysis of the literature illustrates that deployment-related risk factors for suicide are complex. The limitations of the literature are discussed, and future directions are suggested.

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Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science

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