There is no denying the fact that regardless of gender, war takes an unbelievable toll on our soldiers. However, as more women continue to join the military, it is becoming clearer that those women that survive combat are at an extremely severe risk of committing suicide. According to new research, the suicide rate among our female veterans is almost 3 times the rate of suicide among female civilians.
Many are beginning to fear that suicide among our female veterans is becoming a sort of epidemic. There is a new research study out titled Self-Inflicted Deaths among Women with U.S. Military Service: A Hidden Epidemic? It is actually the first study among the general population that is examining the suicide risk specifically for women that serve in the military. What was concluded from this study is literally terrifying and disturbing.
Professor of Psychiatry in the Oregon Health and Science University’s School of Medicine, Bentson McFarland, was one of the people along with two other colleagues, to evaluate the data that was provided from this study which included 5,948 suicides among women only that were committed between the years of 2004 and 2007. Here are the results: Among women between the ages of 18 and 34, there were a total of 56 suicides among 418,132 women veterans which translates to 1 in 7,465. There were 1,461 suicides among 33,257,362 women that were nonveterans which translate to 1 in 22,763. It was then concluded based on this information that the suicide rate among veterans was three times that of nonveterans.
Researchers also made sure to analyze the data from the other two age groups as well and concluded that the rate was lower as the age groups increased from 18 to 34, to 35 to 44, and to 45 to 64. However, the researchers noted that even though the rate was lower among veterans as the ages increased, the older age groups of veterans still had a higher suicide rate than the same age-group that was nonveterans.
While we all cannot fully imagine the stress our soldiers really go through, women in the military have a range of their own stressors to deal with and certain traumas that can lead to suicide. According to studies on women in the military, it was found that female soldiers actually experience more sleep problems than nonveterans, particularly those with children or those that are pregnant. In 2008, it was stated that the number of female cases of PTSD was on the rise.
According to medical director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, Kimberly Dennis, there have been many well-documented studies that show that women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD after a trauma. The traumas that women face in the military do not end in combat. Women in the military are also more likely to be sexually harassed and assaulted.
Mark Kaplan of Portland State University believes that these elevated suicide rates among our female veterans needs to be a call for help and action. Clinicians and caregivers need to be more aware of this increased risk so they can be more alert to warning signs for suicide and be knowledgeable about prevention resources that are available. For instance, the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline was established specifically with trained counselors to help veterans facing such an emotional crisis. The number for this hotline is 1-800-273-8255. Suicide is becoming a major issue in our country that it is essential we stay informed so we can help those in need, veteran or nonveteran.
Mitchell, D. Female Veterans Have High Suicide Rate. 2010.