Risk Factors for Concurrent Suicidal Ideation and Violent Impulses in Military Veterans

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Abstract

Suicide and violence are significant problems in a subset of Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans. This study investigates how posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and resilience in veterans are associated with suicidal ideation and violent impulses while controlling for known covariates of both adverse outcomes. Structured clinical interviews were conducted of N = 2,543 Iraq/Afghanistan-era U.S. veterans. Compared with veterans denying suicidal ideation or violent impulses (n = 1,927), veterans endorsing both (n = 171) were more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD, report childhood abuse, combat exposure, physical pain symptoms, and drug misuse, and less likely to endorse self-direction/life purpose. Veterans reporting concurrent suicidal ideation and violent impulses had higher odds of misusing drugs and reporting pain symptoms relative to veterans reporting suicidal ideation only (n = 186) and had lower odds of endorsing self-direction/life purpose compared with veterans reporting violent impulses only (n = 259). The findings underscore the importance of examining drug abuse, physical pain symptoms, and self-direction/life purpose, as well as PTSD and history of trauma, in the context of clinical assessment and empirical research aimed at optimizing risk management of suicide and violence in military veterans.

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