What are the Predictors of Suicidal Ideation among Military Personnel with PTSD?

Research Paper Title

Predictors of suicidal ideation among active duty military personnel with posttraumatic stress disorder.

Background

Given the alarming rate of military suicides, it is critical to identify the factors that increase risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours among active duty military personnel.

Methods

This study examined a predictive model of suicidal ideation among 366 treatment-seeking active duty military personnel with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following deployments to or near Iraq or Afghanistan. Structural equation modeling was employed to examine the relative contribution of combat exposure, social support, PTSD severity, depressive symptoms, guilt, and trauma-related cognitions on suicidal ideation.

Results

The final structural equation model had a highly satisfactory fit [χ2 (2) =2.023, p=.364; RMSEA =.006; CFI =1; GFI =.998]. PTSD severity had an indirect effect on suicidal ideation via trauma-related cognitions. Depression had a direct positive effect on suicidal ideation; it also had an indirect effect via trauma-related cognitions and interpersonal support. Among participants who had made a previous suicide attempt, only depression symptom severity was significantly linked to suicidal ideation.

Limitations

Data are cross-sectional, precluding causal interpretations. Findings may only generalise to treatment seeking active duty military personnel with PTSD reporting no more than moderate suicidal ideation.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that depression and trauma-related cognitions, particularly negative thoughts about the self, play an important role in suicidal ideation among active duty military personnel with PTSD. Negative cognitions about the self and interpersonal support may be important targets for intervention to decrease suicidal ideation.

Reference

McLean, C.P., Zang, Y., Zandberg, L., Bryan, C.J., Gay, N., Yarvis, J.S., Foa, E.B. & STRONG STAR Consortium. (2016) Predictors of Suicidal Ideation among Active Duty Military Personnel with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2016 Oct 28;208:392-398. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.08.061. [Epub ahead of print].

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