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Army embarks on suicide study

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army and the National Institute of Mental Health are working on the largest-ever study of suicide and mental health among the military, officials say.

The project is expecting to capitalize on the data the Army collects on service personnel, including training experiences, deployments, exposure during deployment, as well as information about health problems and utilization of health services, the American Forces Press Service reported Monday.

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"The bottom line is, we want to apply science in a way that it's going to solve this problem to the benefit of soldiers," Robert Heinssen, National Institute of Mental Health's acting director of intervention research said during a recent Pentagon Channel podcast.

The first part of the study will examine records of soldiers who committed suicide between 2004 and 2009, comparing them to a control group of soldiers from the same period that didn't commit suicide with other characteristics considered important for comparison, he said.

"By doing this kind of case-controlled study where the individual suicides are the cases and the controls are drawn from the rest of the Army, we think that we'll get some early leads on signals that may tell us something about potential risk and protective factors," Heinssen said.

That information will come into play during the second part of the study, a survey of soldiers on active duty.

"Our belief is that if we roll out a research program similar in its characteristics to what was done in heart disease, that we will identify risk and protective factors," Heinssen said.

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