Self-Injury a Growing Concern Among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans

In a quest to identify risk and prevent veteran suicides, the Durham VA Medical Center released research connecting self-harm with suicidal behavior risks. Dr. Nathan Kimbrel, author of the study, reviewed questionnaires submitted by 151 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

The initial findings showed that 14 percent of these veterans reported a history of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). This condition is where a person intentionally causes self-harm through actions such as burning or striking oneself, but not with conscious suicidal intent.

The study group removed veterans who were already diagnosed with mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but the group had a higher-than-average percentage of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients. In the final study group, 35 percent of the participants had been diagnosed with PTSD, while 21 percent suffered from depression.

The final study focused on the type of suicidal ideation expressed by the veterans. Those that reported NSSI were five times more likely to display signs of active suicidal ideation where a person actively considers methods of ending one’s life. The other form of suicidal ideation, passive suicidal ideation, is likened to wishing for death but not actively considering ways to commit suicide.

Researchers found a wide range of NSSI behaviors among the study participants, but burning and hitting oneself were predominant among the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans prone to suicidal ideation.

Kimbrel and his team are now looking to improve methods of screening and evaluation to identify NSSI cases in veterans. Kimbrel believes that earlier detection of NSSI behavior can help clinicians get help to veterans at risk of suicidal ideation and put them on a better path.

Mental illness is just one of the many long-term conditions that a veteran may suffer from as a result of military service. If you have a service-connected disability and can document your military service and connection to your condition, you may be eligible for benefits from the VA. Contact Veterans Help Group® for assistance and support for your veterans disability benefits claim. Call today – 1-855-855-8992.