US Army concerned over increasing suicides by veterans

February 10th, 2009 - 2:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 10 (IANS) Increasing incidence of suicides among war veterans is prompting concerns and research into why soldiers are taking the extreme step.

According to an US Army report, the numbers who committed suicide in January could be as high as 24, the highest monthly total since the Army began collecting data on suicides.

January’s suicide total may be more than the number of soldiers killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan during the month.

University at Buffalo researcher John Violanti, a specialist in suicide among police officers, is preparing to conduct a study on suicide risk among returning veterans. The US Army had reported a “stunning spike” in the number of soldiers taking their own lives.

Violanti currently is testing a computer-based psychological “task” which measures how quickly persons associate feelings of self-harm, as a way of detecting “under the radar” suicidal thought.

“I feel that military personnel will not readily admit suicidal thoughts,” Violanti says. “This new test gets to real feelings at a subconscious level. It is called IAT (Implicit Association Testing) and was developed at Harvard.

“Suicide among returning veterans is a big problem,” said Violanti. “On their psychological evaluation when they return there is only one question on suicide - ‘Are You Depressed?’ Who is going to answer that?”

Violanti is a Vietnam veteran and former member of the New York State Police. As a research associate professor in the UB School of Public Health and Health Profession, he has studied suicide among police officers and the effects of policing on officers’ health for 16 years, said a Buffalo release.

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