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J Affect Disord. 2013 Sep 5;150(2):300-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2013.04.009. Epub 2013 May 10.

Differentiating Army suicide attempters from psychologically treated and untreated soldiers: a demographic, psychological and stress-reaction characterization.

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Geha Mental Health Center and Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.



Suicide is the leading cause of death in most armies during peace-time. The recent dramatic rise in suicides in the US Army further focuses attention on the causes of suicidal behavior in the military.


This study investigated demographic characteristics, psychological profile and stress-related risk factors associated with suicide attempts in Israelis aged 18-21 years, who served in the Army in 2009. Soldiers who attempted suicide (N=60) were compared to soldiers treated by a mental health professional, but reported no suicidal behavior (N=58), and to controls (N=50).


Suicide attempters had lower socioeconomic status and less cognitive ability compared with treated soldiers and untreated control soldiers. Only 25% of the suicide attempters had received mental healthcare prior to the attempt. The majority of the attempts were non-lethal (86.2%), and only 5.2% used firearms. Attempters had more previous suicide attempts (37.9%) and deliberate selfharm incidents (19.3%), compared to almost no such behaviors in the other two groups. Following the suicide attempt, 77% were diagnosed with moderate to severe mental disorders, 44.8% personality disorders and 8.6% mood disorders. Attempters reported higher levels of general stress compared to their peers in the other two groups. Being away from home and obeying authority were especially more stressful in attempters.


Young soldiers are less prone to seek mental health assistance, despite suffering from higher levels of stress. Screening is required to detect soldiers at risk for suicidal behavior and preventive intervention will require active outreach.


Adolescents; Attempt; Israel; Military; Soldiers; Suicide

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