Military suicide risk factors mirror those in society

26 Sep 2013 | Dana Crudo

A recent study by military researchers showed that the risk factors associated with suicides in the military are the same as those among civilians.

Included in these factors, researchers said, are financial and relationship problems.

"There is almost always a relationship problem or financial problem," Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said during his appearance at the 2013 Warrior Resilience Conference in August.

Dr. William Brim, director of the Center for Deployed Psychology, told the conference the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "points to the fact that it is not necessarily combat that is driving suicide. ... It is everyday stress."

In the 2011 Department of Defense Health Related Behaviors Survey of Active Duty Military Personnel, service members most frequently cited problems with money as a source of stress.

The department provides education, support and resources to help deal with financial woes and other common life stressors that contribute to suicides.

Credit unions and banks on military installations offer workshops on budgeting, and personal financial management counselors also are available. Visitors to the Defense Department's Military Installations website, for example, can select "Personal Financial Management Services" at the site to locate a counselor.

In addition, the Military OneSource website offers financial counselors, both in person and online, to assist with establishing a budget and reducing debt. The site also lists other department programs that focus on personal financial management.

"We want to make sure people know [their finances] are under their control," especially with the help that the military offers, Barbara Thompson, director of the Defense Department's office of family policy and children and youth, told the American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.

The department also has military family life consultants to help service members and their families tackle financial problems and other common stressors, including relationship issues that can increase the risk for suicide.

"Military family life consultants embedded at installations provide life coaching and counseling to help people overcome [the] challenges faced in the military lifestyle," Thompson told the 2013 Warrior Resilience Conference.

Licensed consultants are available to help military families cope with the issues of daily life, including:

-- Relationship issues;

-- Personal financial management;

-- Stress related to military life;

-- Loss or grief;

-- Parenting;

-- Decision-making;

-- Adjustment and transition;

-- Anger management;

-- Conflict resolution; and

-- Anxiety, sadness or other common emotional issues.

Consultants also can provide referrals for treatment for mental health issues and substance abuse.

Military family life consultants see individuals, couples and families both on and off military installations, and often take walk-in appointments. The assistance is free, anonymous and confidential -- no files or records are kept, Thompson said.

"This is one way to get help without having to report it to the chain of command," she added.

Military family life consultant programs vary by location. They usually can be accessed through the Army Community Services, Marine Corps Community Services, Navy Fleet and Family Support Centers or Airman and Family Readiness Centers. Military OneSource also has counselors available in person, by phone and online. Counselors for the Military Crisis Line are also available via online chat and texting.

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