US Army Suicide: A Growing Mental Health Crisis - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Literature review
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1341 Words
Date:  2023-01-16


The American military engages in multiple activities aiming to protect the sovereignty of the United States. While conducting such honorable activities, most of the military personnel are exposed to post-traumatic disorder and other mental health issues that contribute to the escalating rate of suicide among army veterans. Over the past two decades, the rate of suicide in the military has increased rapidly, becoming a health concern. Civilians joining the army do not have any suicidal thoughts; however, the phenomenon arises after service or during missions. Research has proven that soldiers develop mental health disorders and opt for suicide to escape from their emotional pain, which motivates them to advance their suicidal thoughts to action (Bryan, May, & Harris, 2019). Due to depression, PTSD, hopelessness, and traumatic brain injuries, many military veterans opt for suicide as a way to relieve their emotional pain leading high financial costs for families and raise a health concern in the department of defense.

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Suicide in the Military

According to Nock et al. (2019), suicide is the tenth cause of death in the United States. A study by the National Action Alliance for Suicide concluded that approximately 37000 persons commit suicide annually in the country. Notably, about 20% are veterans, which account for 18 deaths suicide mortalities daily (Nock et al., 2019). The phenomenon cuts across all genders, races, and ethnicity, leaving a bulk of the risks to the mental wellbeing of the soldiers. The rate of suicide deaths in the military exceeded those of the general population in 2008 shortly after the commencement of the Operation Iraqi Freedom (OFI) in 2003 and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in 2001 (Nock et al., 2019). As a result, most American soldiers have died by their own hands as opposed to being killed in combat.

Causes of Military Suicide

Presence of Mental Illness

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Mental disorders are the most common risk factors associated with suicidal ideation in the army. According to Bryan et al. (2019), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is among the leading causes of military suicides in the United States. Nock et al. (2019) note that about 90-95% of people who succumb to suicide have at least one diagnosable cognitive disorders at the time of death. Recent research has revealed that 25% of American soldiers returning from OEF and OIF deployments report the presence of psychological problems, especially PTSD (Nock et al., 2019). Most soldiers returning from deployment have to cope with PTSD. Soldiers may develop combat shock arising life-threatening events, where their nervous system remains stuck in the situation after it has passed (Nock et al., 2019). The condition leads to increased stress, prompting an individual to contemplate about suicide to evade the pain (Skopp et al., 2019). Symptoms of PTSD among soldiers include recurrent reminders of a terrifying event, avoidance of memory event triggers, and development of negative thoughts about self.


Depression influences suicide ideation among most soldiers, both active and veterans. While depression can take many forms, among soldiers, it is associated with loss of interest and changes in mood (Nock et al., 2019). Most soldiers develop depression during and after combat due to various reasons. For example, a soldier may feel intense guilt due to the death of colleagues or innocent civilians. The situation causes an individual to develop depressive thoughts that affect their mental functioning (Bryan et al., 2019). Due to the comorbidity of mental disorders, it is difficult to diagnose depression; thus, most people live without help. Moreover, a person suffering from depression is likely to contemplate suicide as a means of evading cognitive chaos.

Drugs and Substance Abuse

The American army leads in statistics concerning drugs and substance abuse, which makes it a considerable health concern. The alcohol dependency rate in the military is alarming, with about 30% of military suicide being associated with alcoholism (Nock et al., 2019). Other prescription drugs such as antidepressants, sedatives, and opioids also contribute to suicidal thoughts. Notably, army veterans with a drug or alcohol problem face twice much suicidal risk than those without or civilians. Depressed young adults between 19-30 years with alcohol or drug dependency reveal high suicidal ideation.

Psychological Factors

Psychological factors such as hopelessness have a considerable contribution to the rate of suicide among active military personnel and veterans. Most individuals joining the army may be running from an unsuccessful past or trying to get their lives together. Therefore, when such individuals return from deployments having accomplished less of their expectations, they become hopeless leading to substance abuse and suicidal thoughts (Bryan et al., 2019). Moreover, some soldiers are injured in the war, leading to decapitation or disability. When such veterans become hopeless, they develop PTSD, depression, and anxiety and may opt to end their lives by committing suicide.

Additionally, lack of social support after service may contribute to hopelessness. Most veterans develop impulse behavior due to their exposure to extreme combat (Skopp et al., 2019). The situation makes it difficult for them to integrate fully with the community reducing employment opportunities for veterans; thus increasing their economic burden. The scenarios may cause an individual to perceive their lives as meaningless, leading to suicide.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when a person's head is injured or penetrated by an object resulting in interference from the normal working of the brain. The damage can be temporary or permanent. Typical symptoms include irritability, amnesia, insomnia, ear damage, or changes in vision. Some soldiers returning from combat are diagnosed with TBIs (Nock et al., 2019). The injuries are likely to cause mental illnesses such as depression and PTSD. While the symptoms of TBI range from mild to severe, most veterans may commit suicide to escape the psychological pain associated with their state.

Relationship Factors

Research has also revealed that relationships in the military influence development of suicidal thoughts. According to the Department of Defense Suicide Event Report (DoDSER), intimate spouse relationship problems contributed to 63% of suicide deaths among active soldiers (Skopp et al., 2019). Most of the soldiers who receive news concerning divorce or separation while on active duty are overwhelmed by the circumstances leading to suicide. Furthermore, stressful life experiences such as sexual assault, racism, and sexual orientation may affect the personal and intrapersonal relationships leading to stress and depression, which later escalates to suicidal ideation (Skopp et al., 2019).

Preventive Measures

The department of defense has invested heavily in identifying the causes and preventing suicide among active soldiers and veterans in the past two decades. For example, the army has implemented initiatives, such as comprehensive soldier fitness, which directs the same emphasizes to cognitive, emotional, and psychological strength to that given to physical strength. Additionally, the military has adopted programs to screen for mental disorders routinely among service persons to allow timely help. The Veteran Association has also been tasked in ensuring that individuals integrate smoothly with the community after service to provide social capital necessary to restore the mind to normalcy among veterans suffering from PTSD.


Overall, military suicide remains a critical subject within the DoD. Soldiers and veterans with depression, feelings of hopelessness, PTSD, TBIs, among other mental disorders are likely to commit suicide to evade their mental chaos. Additionally, lack of social support, dysfunctional social relationships, unemployment, and excessive combat guilt continue to affect veterans' mental health adversely. The US military should implement strategies and plans to ensure that soldiers acquire holistic mental health care to reduce the phenomenon. It is incumbent on the society to provide emotional support to ex-soldiers and active ones to eliminate the national challenge.


Bryan, C. J., May, A. M., & Harris, J. (2019). Examining emotion relief motives as a facilitator of the transition from suicidal thought to first suicide attempt among active duty soldiers. Psychological Services, 16(2), 293-301.

Nock, M. K., Deming, C. A., Fullerton, C. S., Gilman, S. E., Goldenberg, M., Kessler, R. C., ... Ursano, R. J. (2013). Suicide among soldiers: a review of psychosocial risk and protective factors. Psychiatry, 76(2), 97-125. doi:10.1521/psyc.2013.76.2.97

Skopp, N. A., Holland, K. M., Logan, J. E., Alexander, C. L., & Floyd, C. F. (2019). Circumstances preceding suicide in US soldiers: A qualitative analysis of narrative data. Psychological Services, 16(2), 302-311.

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US Army Suicide: A Growing Mental Health Crisis - Essay Sample. (2023, Jan 16). Retrieved from

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