Do Repeat Deployments Increase Suicide Risk?


The rate of suicides among U.S. soldiers redeployed six months or less between rotations has increased sharply. A 2018 report prepared by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and published in JAMA Psychiatry, examined 593 men and women in the U.S. Army. The soldiers all had deployed twice and attempted suicide between 2004 and 2009.

The study also concludes that suicide risk is greater for soldiers who are deployed to war zones soon after completing their training. Unfortunately, quick redeployments are the new normal as the U.S. maintains operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and to a more limited extent, Syria. 

According to statistics by the Veterans Affairs Department, in 2014, 20 veterans committed suicide on average each day, while many more attempted it. 

The data indicates that soldiers with less than one year of service who were deployed in war zones were at greatest risk for suicide. In fact, new soldiers were twice as likely to take their own life during or after their second deployment. 

And with less than six months in between deployments, the suicide risk among veterans rose by 60 percent. 

The lead researcher involved in the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences report, Dr. Robert Ursano, suggested that the rate of suicide during or after the second deployment could be reduced by over 14 percent if a U.S. Army veterans spend 12 months or longer training before being deployed for the first time. 

Giving our soldiers time and preparation before deployment will make a significant difference for veterans’ health and decrease their suicide risk.


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