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Young age, availability of weapons, and stressful life events, increase the risk of suicide. The aim of the present study was to assess additional risk factors for suicide in the Israeli army.
We conducted a case-control study, to assess risk factors for suicide. The cases comprised soldiers who died by suicide during their military service (n = 462; 0.039% of all soldiers in the cohort). The control group consisted of soldiers who did not commit suicide but were in active service during the investigated period (n = 1,170,895; 99.96%). Predictor variables, including socio-demographic and psychiatric diagnoses, were considered.
Using a Generalized Linear Model with a Binary Logistic dependent variable to predict suicide, while controlling the effect of intervening variables, we found the following variables enhanced the risk for committing suicide: male (RR = 6.703; P < 0.001), country of origin: Ethiopia (RR = 4.555; P = 0.014), low socioeconomic status (RR = 1.448; P = 0.016) and low adjustment difficulties (RR = 2.324; P < 0.001). In addition, we found that in males only, Cluster B Personality Disorder (RR = 2.548; P = 0.027), low (RR = 1.657; P = 0.002), to average motivation to serve in a combat unit (RR = 1.322; P = 0.046) increased the risk for suicide.
IDF Soldiers bearing a psychiatric diagnosis or severe adjustment difficulties remained tightly monitored through their military service, and were found to be at a lower risk for suicide. However, those enlisted with mild (low) difficulties, were found to be at greater risk for suicide, as well as soldiers whose country of origin is Ethiopia. Suicide prevention program should focus on monitoring soldiers with these risk factors, together with soldiers’ guidance regarding help seeking and de-stigmatizing suicide.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the IDF Suicide Prevention Program, implemented since 2006.
Quasi-experimental (before and after) cohort study.
Two cohorts of IDF mandatory service soldiers: the first inducted prior to (1992–2005, n = 766,107) and the second subsequent to (2006–2012, n = 405,252) the launching of the intervention program.
The IDF Suicide Prevention Program is a population-based program, incorporating: reducing weapon availability, de-stigmatizing help-seeking behavior, integrating mental health officers into service units, and training commanders and soldiers to recognize suicide risk factors and warning signs.
Main outcome measure
Suicide rate and time to suicide in cohorts before and after exposure to the Suicide Prevention Program.
Trend analysis showed lower suicide rates in the cohort after intervention. The hazard ratio for the intervention effect on time to suicide was 0.44 (95% CI = 0.34–0.56, P < .001) among males. Lower risk was associated with: male gender; born in Israel; higher socio-economic status; higher intelligence score; and serving in a combat unit (HR = 0.43: 95% CI = 0.33–0.55).
There was a 57% decrease in the suicide rate following the administration of the IDF Suicide Prevention Program. The effect of the intervention appears to be related to use of a weapon, and being able to benefit from improved help-seeking and de-stigmatization. Future efforts should seek to extend the program's prevention reach to other demographic groups of soldiers. The success of the IDF program may inform suicide prevention in other military organizations and in the civilian sector.
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