Applying Durkheim’s Theory of Suicide: A Study of Altruism and Anomie Among Canadian Veterans of Afghanistan

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Rose, Steve
Transitional Injury , Durkheim , Morality , Purpose , Suicide , Suicidal Ideation , Moral Injury , Social Theory , Meaning , Qualitative Research , Veterans , Canada , Canadian Veterans , Military , Transition , Veterans in Transition , Sociology , Canadian Armed Forces
As over 40,000 Canadian service-personnel returned from the war in Afghanistan, more than one third believe they did not make a successful transition. This study inquiries into the lived-experience of Canadian Veterans who have made this transition and demonstrates how difficult transition experiences can contribute to suicidal ideation among Veterans. The vast majority of research on suicide among Veterans focuses on the impact of mental disorders such as Post-traumatic Stress and Major Depressive Disorders, resulting from traumas incurred on deployment. Discussions of difficult social transitions run parallel to this research on suicide. Research on Canadian Veterans in transition to civilian life highlights the negative effect of losing one’s tightly formed communal bonds when leaving the military (Black and Papile, 2010). In addition, Veteran Affairs Canada’s Life After Service Studies (2014) have found that compared to the general Canadian population, Regular Force Veterans are less likely to have a sense of community belonging and are less often satisfied with life. The purpose of this dissertation is to connect the literature on suicide with research on issues related to social belonging during transition. A concept of transitional injury is developed to bridge this gap and build on current understandings of suicidal ideation among Veterans. This research employs semi-structured qualitative in-depth interviews with 35 Canadian male Veterans who deployed to Afghanistan. Following the interviews, a thematic analysis was conducted to understand the major social barriers individuals face as they transition into civilian occupations and family life. Durkheim’s theory of suicide is applied to this contemporary social phenomenon to demonstrate the relevance of his sociology of morality in light of recent developments in the field of suicidology.
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