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Tracking suicide & mental illness in military families and new recruits




Army wife  (C) holds her daughter Annalise and a welcome home sign while waiting to greet her husband Spc. Eric Henry of the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, during a homecoming ceremony in the Natcher Physical Fitness Center on Fort Knox on February 27, 2014 in Fort Knox, Kentucky. About 100 soldiers returned to Fort Knox after a nine-month combat deployment conducting village stability operations and working alongside Afghan military and police forces.
Army wife (C) holds her daughter Annalise and a welcome home sign while waiting to greet her husband Spc. Eric Henry of the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, during a homecoming ceremony in the Natcher Physical Fitness Center on Fort Knox on February 27, 2014 in Fort Knox, Kentucky. About 100 soldiers returned to Fort Knox after a nine-month combat deployment conducting village stability operations and working alongside Afghan military and police forces.
Luke Sharrett/Getty Images

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A considerable amount of time, money and effort has been spent to track and curb suicide among military service people. Now suicide prevention advocates are pressing Congress to also track suicides of military family members.

Though no data is available to compare whether suicide among this group has increased as it has for soldiers, anecdotal evidence hints that suicides of military family members is on the rise.

A recent report released by the Defense Suicide Prevention Office outlines an approach for tracking military family member suicides. The proposal would link the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), which tracks military dependents, with Center for Disease Control information on cause of death. This would allow the Department of Defense to review back data on suicides from 1983 forward.

According to the DSPO report, it would take 18-24 months to complete the project and cost $681,600 in the first year, $502,200 subsequent years to maintain. This approach would mainly track suicides of children and spouses (i.e. dependents), and not that of parents and siblings.

Is there a need for tracking suicides among military family members? Should suicides of parents and siblings also be tracked? Is this effort worth the price tag? What mental health options currently exist for military families?

Guest:  

Susan Lindau, clinician and associate professor of military social work at USC; Licensed by the Department of Defense to work with active-duty soldiers. Works with Military Family Life Consultant program, a Department of Defense contract program

Matthew Nock, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and co-author of the study on prevalence of preexisting mental health disorders in soldiers.  

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