Suicide Ideation in Female Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma: The Trauma Source Matters

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Abstract

Female veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma (MST) are at elevated suicide risk, yet knowledge is limited regarding correlates of suicide ideation (SI) in this population. MST is associated with a higher risk of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) relative to other trauma types; however, no studies have examined whether experiencing SI differs based on the source of PTSD symptoms (MST-related, non–MST-related). Female service members/veterans (SM/Vs; n = 311) who screened positive for MST and reported exposure to a Criterion A event completed an online survey assessing self-reported demographics, PTSD, depression, the source of their PTSD symptoms, and SI. Ninety-one (29.3%) reported experiencing current SI, and 223 (71.7%) identified MST as the source of their current PTSD symptoms. Participants who identified MST as the source of their PTSD symptoms were over two times more likely to report SI, compared to those who described non–MST-related events as the source of their PTSD symptoms. Compared to those who reported the source of their PTSD symptoms as combat-/deployment-related, those who identified MST as the source were at least three times as likely to report current SI. Results underscore the importance of efforts to address MST-related PTSD symptoms when working with female SM/Vs.

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