Objective: To determine whether exposure to particular types of traumatic events was differentially associated with suicide attempts in a representative sample of active military personnel.
Method: Data came from the Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health and Well-Being Canadian Forces Supplement (CCHS-CFS), a cross-sectional survey that provided a comprehensive examination of mental disorders, health, and the well-being of currently active Canadian military personnel (n = 8441; aged 16 to 54 years; response rate 81.1%). Respondents were asked about exposure to 28 traumatic events that occurred during their lifetime. Suicide attempts were measured using a question about whether the person ever "attempted suicide or tried to take [his or her] own life."
Results: The prevalence of lifetime suicide attempts for currently active Canadian military men and women was 2.2% and 5.6%, respectively. Sexual and other interpersonal traumas (for example, rape, sexual assault, spousal abuse, child abuse) were significantly associated with suicide attempts in both men (adjusted odds ratios [AORs] ranging from 2.31 to 4.43) and women (AORs ranging from 1.73 to 3.71), even after adjusting for sociodemographics and mental disorders. Additionally, the number of traumatic events experienced was positively associated with increased risk of suicide attempts, indicating a dose-response effect of exposure to trauma.
Conclusions: The current study is the first to demonstrate that sexual and other interpersonal traumatic events are associated with suicide attempts in a representative sample of active Canadian military men and women.