Year: 2018 Source: Comprehensive Psychiatry. (2017). 78: 9-18. SIEC No: 20180042

Studies examining the relationship between combat exposure and suicide risk typically focus on combat exposure overall, combining numerous different combat experiences. Our study expands upon prior research by examining the association between specific combat experiences and components of both suicidal desire and the capability for suicide.
We hypothesized that most combat experiences would be associated with capability for suicide. Furthermore, we hypothesized that experiences that involved direct exposure to death and injury (e.g. personally witnessing the death or injury of other soldiers) would be associated with higher levels of thwarted belongingness, perceived burdensomeness, and suicidal ideation. Participants were 400 service members drawn largely from the Army National Guard who had been deployed at least once and endorsed having experienced combat.
Consistent with hypotheses, combat experiences involving direct exposure to injury or death exhibited a more pronounced pattern of associations with suicide risk factors than did other experiences. However, only a minority of combat experiences were associated with the capability for suicide.
These results, while preliminary, indicate that different combat experiences are associated with different outcomes and that, in this sense, not all combat experiences are created equal with respect to suicide risk.