Killing in combat, mental health symptoms, and suicidal ideation in Iraq war veterans

J Anxiety Disord. 2011 May;25(4):563-7. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2011.01.003. Epub 2011 Jan 22.


This study examined combat and mental health as risk factors of suicidal ideation among 2854 U.S. soldiers returning from deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Data were collected as part of a postdeployment screening program at a large Army medical facility. Overall, 2.8% of soldiers reported suicidal ideation. Postdeployment depression symptoms were associated with suicidal thoughts, while postdeployment PTSD symptoms were associated with current desire for self harm. Postdeployment depression and PTSD symptoms mediated the association between killing in combat and suicidal thinking, while postdeployment PTSD symptoms mediated the association between killing in combat and desire for self harm. These results provide preliminary evidence that suicidal thinking and the desire for self-harm are associated with different mental health predictors, and that the impact of killing on suicidal ideation may be important to consider in the evaluation and care of our newly returning veterans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Combat Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Health
  • Military Personnel / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Veterans / psychology*