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Compr Psychiatry. 2014 Apr;55(3):534-41. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2013.10.006. Epub 2013 Oct 22.

Suicide attempts before joining the military increase risk for suicide attempts and severity of suicidal ideation among military personnel and veterans.

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  • 1National Center for Veterans Studies. Electronic address:
  • 2National Center for Veterans Studies.
  • 3Maxwell Air Force Base.
  • 4Hurlburt Field.



Past self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SITB) are robust predictors of future suicide risk, but no studies have explored the prevalence of SITB occurring prior to military service among military personnel and veterans, or the association of premilitary SITB with suicidal ideation and suicide attempts during or after military service. The current study explores these issues in two separate samples.


Self-report data were collected from 374 college student veterans via anonymous only survey (Study 1) and from 151 military personnel receiving outpatient mental health treatment (Study 2).


Across both studies, premilitary suicide attempts were among the most prominent predictor of subsequent suicide attempts that occurred after joining the military, even when controlling for demographics and more recent emotional distress. Among military personnel who made a suicide attempt during or after military service, approximately 50% across both samples experienced suicidal ideation and up to 25% made a suicide attempt prior to joining the military. Military personnel and veterans who made suicide attempts prior to joining the military were over six times more likely to make a later suicide attempt after joining the military. In Study 2, significantly more severe current suicidal ideation was reported by participants with histories of premilitary suicide risk, even when controlling for SITB occurring while in the military.


Military personnel and veterans who experienced SITB, especially suicide attempts, prior to joining the military are more likely to attempt suicide while in the military and/or as a veteran, and experience more severe suicidal crises.

© 2014.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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