Strong Relationships May Reduce Risk of Military Suicides

Involvement in a strong committed relationship can reduce the risk of suicide among members of the military. According to investigators from Michigan State University, a decreased suicide rate among National Guard and reserve members is dependent on a healthy relationship with their significant other. 

Statistics show that members of the military have a higher risk of suicide than the everyday civilian. In addition, researchers have also discovered that the risk of suicide among National Guard and reserve members is much greater than among active duty members. Investigators believe this is because of the unique challenges confronted by National Guard members when they return to their civilian lives after deployment.

After combat missions, guard members are often forced to immediately jump back into a normal civilian life which can be very difficult. Many suffer from mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorderdepression, or high anxiety in the months that follow their return. These are considered at-risk symptoms for suicide.

Researchers at Michigan State University were curious how a strong, intimate relationship played a role in the lives of soldiers who suffered from mental health conditions. They discovered a correlation between decreased suicide rates and relationship satisfaction.

Adrian Blow, a family studies professor and lead author at Michigan State University, states that “…a strong relationship provides a critical sense of belonging and motivation for living – the stronger a relationship, the more of a buffer it affords to prevent suicides… National Guard members don’t typically have the same type of support system full-time soldiers receive upon returning home, so it’s important that the family and relationships they return to are as satisfying and strong as possible,” (American Association of Suicidology).

In order to prove Blow’s claims, researchers carried out a survey that questioned 712 National Guard members in Michigan who had been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan between 2010-2013 and reported that they were a committed relationship. The study measured three main variables — mental health symptoms, suicide risk and relationship satisfaction — each on a separate ranking scale.

The soldiers were asked if their relationship was enjoyable, if they ever had suicidal thoughts or had attempted suicide, how often they experienced symptoms from depression, etc.
The survey conveyed a significant connection between mental health conditions (PTSD, depression and anxiety) and suicide, indicating that a high amount of symptoms were predictive of greater suicide risk.

In conclusion, results from the study showed that members of the military who had higher couple satisfaction had low suicide rates and were less likely to be affected by PTSD, depression, and anxiety.

Source: 

Gorman, L. A., et al. “National Guard Families After Combat: Mental Health, Use of Mental Health Services, and Perceived Treatment Barriers.” Psychiatric Services, vol. 62, no. 1, 2011, pp. 28–34., doi:10.1176/appi.ps.62.1.28.

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