Date of this Version
Scalora, M. J., Bulling, D., DeKraai, M, Senholzi, K. B., & Shechter, O. G. (2016). Early warning signs of suicide in service members who engage in unauthorized acts of violence (Technical Report 16-03). Monterrey, CA: Defense Personnel and Security Research Center, Defense Manpower Data Center.
Despite the importance of both suicide and violence prevention in the military, little is known about how these behaviors relate to one another. The current research sought to elucidate the relationship between early warning signs for suicide and violence in a military population. This study included a review of 200 military law enforcement records maintained by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and identification of early warning signs that may be observable to military law enforcement personnel. Statistical analyses tested for differences in warning signs between cases of suicide, violence, or both suicide and violence. The suicide-only and suicide/violence groups were more likely than the violence-only group to show early warning signs for: (1) psychological issues of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, a mental health diagnosis, and participation in treatment, (2) physical changes and impulsive behaviors, particularly substance abuse, (3) social warning signs, specifically social withdrawal, and (4) occupational issues, including diminished performance and interest at work. By contrast, the suicide/violence group was more likely than the other groups to show early warning signs of anger and aggression. Our findings suggest that Service members at risk for both suicide and violence are similar to those exclusively at risk for suicide, and they each differ from those solely at risk for violence. Our findings also suggest that the emotional trajectory that those who are both suicidal and violent follow is more aggressive, hostile, and angry than those who are either strictly suicidal or violent. The findings from this effort may enhance the ability of law enforcement and command personnel to prevent further acts of suicide and violence among military personnel. Recommendations for policy and future research are discussed.