Suicide Prevention Expert Outlines New Steps to Tackle Military Suicide
The suicide rate in the U.S. Army now exceeds the rate in the general population, and psychiatric admission is now the most common reason for hospitalization in the Army.
Dr. Lineberry of Mayo Clinic outlines four steps based on past research and emerging evidence that he believes could help begin curbing military suicide:
- Reduce access to guns and other means of suicide. Nearly 70 percent of veterans who commit suicide use a gun to do it.
- Watch for sleep disturbances. Complaints of insomnia or other sleep disturbances in otherwise healthy soldiers, reservists, or veterans may signal the need for taking a careful history and screening for depression, substance misuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Prescribe opioid medications carefully and monitor. Unintentional overdose deaths, primarily with opioids, now outnumber traffic fatalities in many states. Individuals with psychiatric illness are overrepresented among those receiving prescriptions for opioids and those taking overdoses.
- Improve primary care treatment for depression. Research suggests that patients who die by suicide are more likely to have visited a primary care physician than mental health specialist in the previous month. Programs developed to improve primary care physicians' recognition and treatment of depression could help lower suicide rates.