IntroductionThispaper focuses on the relationship between family involvement and militarypersonnel suicide rates. On average, twenty-two (22) veteran suicides occur inthe United States every day (Weisenhorn, et al.
, 2016). This significant number of deaths demandsanswers. There must be a betterunderstanding of the suicide risk military personnel face as well as the waysin which preventive measures can be best instated to lower the instance ofsuicide and aid the transition of service men and women. New findings are being presented as time goeson to better understand veteran PTSD and propensity towards suicide. However, very little has been done to focuson how family involvement impacts a veteran’s mental health or the ways inwhich such involvement and support lowers the incidence of suicide. In2009, 1.6 million were deployed to Iraqi, Afghanistan.
More than 300,000 returned with mental healthconcerns (M. McCarthy, et al., 2015). Currently, about 1.2 million are enlisted (“American Veterans byNumbers”, 2015) within the US military and as of 2015 there were approximately18.
8 million veterans (“American Veterans by Numbers”, 2015) navigatingcivilian life. Many military personnelreturn from deployment to civilian, non-military, life experiencing significantchallenges. The challenges experiencedrange from adaptation to non-military environments to struggles finding jobsand adjusting to a new job environment to the emotional tolls of having toprocess the experience of war (Logan, et al., 2012). These challenges arefurther complicated by the presence of some form of Post-Traumatic StressDisorder, commonly known as PTSD. Post-TraumaticStress Disorder is a mental health disorder thatis the direct result of exposure to a traumatic event (Weisenhorn, etal.
, 2016). The suicide risk in militarypersonnel increases with incidences of PTSD and the stresses of civilian life.Thoughaffecting significant numbers of military personnel, little research has beendone on the effects of PTSD. The Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA), adepartment of Veteran Affairs, has strengthened their mental health programover the last eight years, specifically for suicide prevention (J.
McCarthy, etal., 2015). A majority of the researchfocuses on the need for greater research within mental health while expressingthe many limitations of their own results (Eisen, et al., 2012). Further studies need to be conducted on PTSDand how family involvement aids in a return to civilian life.
Familyinvolvement could be defined as investment in the well-being and daily life ofan individual. For example, one study (Weisenhorn,et al., 2016) noted how previous research suggests family and children are aprotective factor but that they failed to examine whether marriage status has arelationship to lower rates of PTSD. The need for research into the role family plays inlowering the incidence of veteran suicide is imperative to the therapeutic careof military personnel and their families. The 22 veteran suicides a day (Weisenhorn, et al.
, 2016) span acrossgenerations, wars, ethnicities and social lines. The number of people in the militaryreturning to civilian life represents thousands of families affected by themental health concerns of one service man or woman. There will continue to be ongoing conflictsand disasters requiring military involvement and it would be most advantageousto devise effective means of treating PTSD and lowering risk of suicide. DiscussionWiththe deployment and return of many military personnel, there has been anincrease in studying their mental health. Many studies have been done to assess the suicide risk in veterans andthe ramifications of PTSD.
Much data is received via web-based surveys (Blosnich,et al., 2014) and mailed surveys (Eisen, et al., 2012) and rely on veteransself-reporting their own mental health status (Miller, et al., 2012).
Multiple assessments were done 90 to 180 dayspost-deployment while some assessments were looked at over a longer period, 12months (Eisen, et al., 2012). The National DeathIndex (NDI) is a primary source where researchers can identify if a person’sdeath was due to suicide. When thisinformation is added to the numerous military databases, a clearer picture ofveteran suicide can be gathered. Researchdone by Eisen, et al. could aide in future research regarding militarysuicide.
Results shared informationabout the four main branches of the military and their chances of PTSD anddepression. Eisen indicated militarypersonnel within the Army and Marines had worse mental health function thanpersonnel within the Navy or Airforce (2012). In comparison the Army and Marines scored higher percentages for manytriggers and symptoms than the Navy or Airforce (Eisen, et al., 2012). This approachto understanding the research is valuable to assessing the diverse levels ofmental health in the different military branches. Future research identifying branch specificcare and suicide prevention could be beneficial. Eisenwas not the only one to see the value of approaching research by a focus on differentbranches of the military and their mental health states. Logan, et al.
collected data focusing on USArmy suicide decedents during 2005 and 2007 across 17 US states (2012). His data collected showed results which shedlight into the backgrounds of each of these Army veterans and what kind of lifethey led (Logan, et al., 2012). Thisapproach to research understands that the military experience of a veteran isnot the only relevant data to identifying the risk of PTSD or suicide. By understanding what kind of life is lived,further research can continue to recognize personal flags which increase risk,such as drugs and alcohol (Logan, et al., 2012) as well as what supportssystems may come into play to reduce risk.McCarthy,et al. (2012) also focused a particular branch with research on Airforceveterans.
Like Logan, there is a look towards the personal life of theveteran. Where Logan points towards thepotential of things like social supports, McCarthy dives deeper into suchresearch. Having collected data via aweb-based self-report questionnaire that each person within the study filledout (McCarthy, et al. 2012), a trend of post-deployment was identified insupport systems.
He notes that “combatveterans who have high levels of social support are at less risk fordepression, trauma-related problems, and suicide after a combat experience thanpeers who have inadequate social resources” (M. McCarthy, et al., 2012, p.
63).This emphasis towards social resources in lowering suicide risk could befurther pursued as a means to develop plans for intervention geared towardsprevention. Additionally, the kind ofsocial support available to a veteran should be researched to identify the mostbeneficial interactions. Theseplaces of research and others have been beneficial in beginning to understandthe issues facing military personnel and their increased risk of suicide. It points to some meaningful trends; such asthe previously differences in mental health function within each branch of themilitary.
Their findings suggest furtherefforts towards military suicide prevention. Knowing each branch of the military experiences different levels ofcombat implies there should be different mental health focuses for each ofthem. Furthermore, this research points to a need for research to take intoaccount specific branch of the military. Failure to account for which military branch the veteran experiencedwhen researching suicide risk and prevention could be problematic andpotentially skew results. Thoughthe leading research approaches in identifying the suicide risk of veterans hasbeen meaningful, they are also limited and incomplete. Just as failing to account for militarybranch could provide inadequate or even misleading results, problems inunderstanding the severity of the situation result when fields are narrowed orneglected. Miller attempted to comparethe difference between civilian and military suicide and conclude there was nota statistically significant difference (Miller, et al.
, 2012). Looking at the incidence of suicide forveterans, 26.2 per 100,000 persons; and nonveterans 18.8 per 100,000 persons;however, there seems to be clear differentiations (Miller, et al.
, 2012). Miller admits that he has narrows the fieldby age, race, and survey year (2012) to reach his conclusions. Someresearch recognizes its own limitations. Zivin acknowledges that because there is “limited research examiningcompleted suicide, little is known about the relative risks of suicideassociated with demographic and clinical factors among depressed veterans” (Zivin,et al., 2007, 2193). Furthermore, Millerdiscovers that studies revolving around the mental health of military personnelare almost entirely among men.
There isa lack of research, and therefore understanding, of women veterans (Miller, etal., 2012). Attempting to apply thenotable research of male veterans to female veterans returning to civilian lifemay prove ineffective. Furtherlimitations and problems with the research need to be identified by the ethicaland cultural implications within the information gathered by researchers. Data was collected via email, postcards orweb-based programs (Logan, et al., 2012), yet while allowing for anonymity,there is no way of verifying validity of these responses. Therefore, the data that was obtained andcompiled together could have skewed results.
Population surveyed is of both ethical and cultural concern. Within the research studied, majority of thedata was collected from men, most white, while one research article (Miller, etal., 2012) clearly stated that women were not addressed within theirstatistics. In order to have a clearunderstanding of suicide rates and mental health stability, it would beimportant to focus on both genders as well as other cultures that serve withinour armed forces. Asnoted, there are many places available research could and should continue inthe future to adequately understand the suicide risk of veterans as well asmove towards prevention and therapeutic treatment of PTSD. Future military branch specific researchidentifying experiences, risk, and PTSD is necessary to meet the needs ofveterans on an individual basis.
Logan and McCarthy would both cite the needfor the necessity of further research understanding the role of social supportsin lowering the risk and rate of suicide. Logan cites how increasing positive partner relationships and coping skillshave shown to be beneficial (Logan, et al., 2012) but does not indicate how toobtain those results. McCarthy, et al.
stated it best: “closeness to family members also enhances military members’resilience after traumatic combat-related experiences as do homecomingceremonies” (2012, p. 63). Furtherresearch should be conducted on how family impacts the mental health ofmilitary personnel post-deployment.
Research ProposalAsprevious studies have shown, little has been researched on the specificinvolvement of family post-deployment and if it effects suicide rates. A study on marriage (Weisenhorn, et al., 2016)showed marriage influenced suicide rates, but more research was required togather conclusive data. The research proposal being presented focuses on howfamily involvement can impact suicide rates among military personnelpost-deployment.
Available researchreadily notes the tests and studies being conducted but few include a familycomponent. The present goal is to do quantitative research with a predictivemodel of focusing on family involvement. Both proposals and hypotheses will be considered here with anexplanation as to the importance of this research. The military is a functioning piece of ourgovernment, ensuring freedom amidst conflict. As humans, fellow citizens, and individuals whom willingly sacrifice forothers, their mental health and suicide risk should be a cause of concern. There is a responsibility to ensure the careof the military personnel as they themselves have already demonstrated.
The proposed research question is “what is therelationship between family involvement and military personnel suiciderates?” It is hypothesized that familyinvolvement with military personnel will significantly reduce suicide rates. With first-hand experiences on this topic,one can clearly see the impact family can have on returning veterans. McCarthy (2012) stated that militarypersonnel have a certain level of resilience with the more tours they aredeployed on, yet how does that relate to home life? It is important to consider these results asit seems natural for individuals to put their best foot forward when they knowthey are being supported. This falls inagreement with qualitative studies showing the positive effects thatcommunity/home support played with the mental health of military veterans (Katz,2012).
Future focus on how specificfamilial support affects suicide rates within military personnel is important. Another focus and research proposal would ask “what is therelationship between family involvement in therapy sessions and militarypersonnel suicide rates?” It ishypothesized that family involvement in therapy with military personnel willsignificantly reduce suicide rates. Onewould think that family/support in therapeutic sessions may not play asignificant role in post-deployment well-being, but one researcher suggestsfuture research needs to be done to bridge the gap of the gap of the unknown (Weisenhorn,et al., 2016). Further exploration couldshed light on how support shapes a soldier’s mental status upon returning. There is a great need for research into the role familyplays in lowering the incidence of veteran suicides.
Twenty-two veteran suicides a day are 22 liveslost, part, and communities affected. Themental health concerns of one service man or woman are worth identifying the besttherapeutic treatment for, of which family could be a catalyst to a full mental,physical, and emotional return to civilian life. As the need for military personnel continues, itis imperative to continue to devise effective means of treating PTSD andlowering risk of suicide.
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