The Relationship between Post-Battle Experiences and Thwarted Belongingness and Perceived Burdensomeness in Three United States Military Samples


Suicide rates within the military are elevated relative to the general population; however, research suggests that many of the suicide risk factors for military personnel are similar to the suicide risk factors for civilians. Given that many military specific experiences (e.g., number of deployments) are not considered robust predictors of either suicidal ideation or behavior, it has been posited that deployment specific experiences (e.g., post-battle experiences) may be better able to explain the increased rates of suicide among military personnel. Therefore, the current study aimed to examine the relationship between post-battle experiences and perceived burdensomeness (PB), thwarted belongingness (TB), and suicidal ideation within 3 different military samples: a non-clinical sample of Army National Guard personnel, a non-clinical sample of active duty U.S. Air Force Security Forces personnel, and a clinical sample of U.S. Army personnel receiving outpatient treatment. Post-battle experiences were found to be significantly associated with TB in both non-clinical samples; however, the association between post-battle experiences and TB was non-significant within the clinical sample. Furthermore, results indicated that post-battle experiences were not significantly associated with either PB or suicidal ideation in any of the samples. These findings suggest that in non-clinical samples, post-battle experiences impact a soldier’s ability to feel connected to others. Within clinical samples, results indicate that post-battle experiences may not be a direct contributor to either PB or TB. These results indicate a need for universal intervention promoting interpersonal support of military personnel and their families prior to development of further need for psychological interventions. This upstream approach may decrease further development of TB and potentially prevent suicidal desire.

Publication Title

Archives of Suicide Research