Support Systems: How Post-Deployment Support Impacts Suicide Risk Factors in the United States Army National Guard
Despite well-documented postdeployment readjustment problems affecting veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Iraqi Freedom (OIF), few studies have explored the possible relationship of readjustment stressors to the recent increase in military suicide. This study examined associations between suicidal ideation and postdeployment readjustment problems using cross-sectional population-based survey data from 1665 National Guard members who recently returned from Iraq. The findings suggested that readjustment problems are widespread, with 45% of veterans endorsing one or more financial or family problems 3 months postdeployment. After adjusting for mental health and combat exposure, veterans with the highest number of readjustment stressors were at 5½ times greater risk of suicidal ideation than those with no stressors. In a psychiatrically impaired subsample, the high stressor group experienced a fourfold risk of suicide ideation compared with those with no stressors. The findings argue for suicide prevention efforts that more directly target readjustment problems in returning OEF/OIF veterans.