Deployment-Related Traumatic Events and Suicidal Behaviours in a Nationally Representative Sample of Canadian Armed Forces Personnel
Afifi, Tracie O.
Stein, Murray B.
Zamorski, Mark A.
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Objective: Worldwide, there has been substantial controversy with respect to whether military deployment is a risk factor for suicidal behaviour. The present study examined the relationship between lifetime exposure to deployment and deployment-related traumatic events (DRTEs) and past-year suicidal ideation (SI), suicidal plans (SP), and suicidal attempts (SA). Method: Data were analysed from the 2013 Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey (8161 respondents; response rate, 79.8%; aged 18-60 years). A total of 12 individual items assessed exposure to DRTEs (e.g., combat, witnessing human atrocities, feeling responsible for the death of Canadian or ally personnel, knowing someone who was injured or killed). We examined each individual DRTE type as well as the number of types of DRTEs in relation to suicidal behaviour. Results: Lifetime deployment was not significantly associated with suicidal behaviour. In models adjusted for sociodemographic variables, most of the individual DRTE items and the DRTE count variable were significantly associated with suicidal behaviours (adjusted odds ratio ranged between 1.10 and 5.32). When further adjusting for child abuse exposure, these associations were minimally attenuated, and some became nonsignificant. In models adjusting for mental disorders and child abuse, most DRTEs and number of types of DRTEs became nonsignificant in relation to SI, SP, and SA. Conclusions: Active military personnel exposed to increasing number of DRTEs are at increased risk for SI, SP, and SA. However, most of the association between DRTEs and suicidal behaviour is accounted for by child abuse exposure and mental disorders.