MSRC News Details

University of Ky. to study military suicides

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The University of Kentucky is conducting a study to find out how military suicides affect families and friends.

Researcher Julie Cerel told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the study’s goal is to help develop a comprehensive approach that will prevent military suicides.

Cerel, an associate professor in the UK College of Social Work, said the effort could be one of the first times that a census has been taken of individuals affected by military or veteran suicide.

“This study will help us understand how many veterans are affected by suicide. It will also help us examine exposure to suicide in the general population so we can show that suicide affects families, communities and workplaces,” she said.

Department of Defense spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said 154 active duty members of the military committed suicides across the nation during the first six months of this year. That’s an 18 percent increase over the same period in 2011 when 130 suicides were reported.

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In Kentucky, 11 active-duty Army soldiers died by suicide during the first half of 2012 Retired Army Major Gen. Mark Graham and his wife, Carol Graham, a Frankfort native, said their hope is that the root cause of military suicides will be uncovered by the survey. The couple travel across the county encouraging active duty military members and veterans to seek treatment for depression.

Their son, Kevin Graham, who was a UK ROTC student committed suicide in 2003 after he quit taking medication because he feared a diagnosis of depression could hurt his chances of becoming an Army doctor, they said. Their other son was killed in 2004 by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Because of Kevin’s death, Mark Graham said, “We talk about eliminating the stigma in the military and also in civilian communities. It’s got to be treated just like any physical illness or wound. People should be helped and not judged.”

The Suicide Bereavement in Military and Their Families study will last two years and is funded with a $677,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Military Suicide Research Consortium.

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