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Religion, spirituality, and suicide risk in Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans

APA Citation:

Smigelsky, M. A., Jardin, C., Nieuwsma, J. A., Brancu, M., Meador, K. G., Molloy, K. G., & Elbogen, E. B. (2020). Religion, spirituality, and suicide risk in Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans. Depression and Anxiety, 37, 728-737. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.23013

Abstract Created by REACH:

United States Veterans and Service members are at increased risk for suicide compared to civilians. Although research has explored multiple factors that influence suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, very little research has included multiple aspects of religion/spirituality (e.g., service attendance, daily spiritual experiences, perceived strength/punishment received from God) among these factors. This study examined how aspects of religion/ spirituality were related to suicidal ideation and suicide attempts after accounting for covariates (e.g., depression, PTSD, sense of control). With a sample of 1,002 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who were already seeking help regarding their mental health, multiple analyses were utilized to determine how different religion/spirituality aspects were associated with both suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. The results suggest that only a few aspects of religion/ spirituality were connected to lower levels of suicidal ideation and increased suicide attempts.

Focus:

Mental health
Veterans

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Veteran

Subject Affiliation:

Veteran

Population:

Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)

Methodology:

Case Analysis
Quantitative Study

Authors:

Smigelsky, Melissa A., Jardin, Charles, Nieuwsma, Jason A., Brancu, Mira, Meador, Keith G., Molloy, Kiera G., VA Mid‐Atlantic MIRECC Workgroup, Elbogen, Eric B.

Abstract:

Background United States military veterans experience disproportionate rates of suicide relative to the general population. Evidence suggests religion and spirituality may impact suicide risk, but less is known about which religious/spiritual factors are most salient. The present study sought to identify the religious/spiritual factors most associated with the likelihood of having experienced suicidal ideation and attempting suicide in a sample of recent veterans. Methods Data were collected from 1002 Iraq/Afghanistan‐era veterans (Mage = 37.68; 79.6% male; 54.1% non‐Hispanic White) enrolled in the ongoing Veterans Affairs Mid‐Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center multi‐site Study of Post‐Deployment Mental Health. Results In multiple regression models with stepwise deletion (p < .05), after controlling for depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnoses, independent variables that demonstrated a significant effect on suicidal ideation were perceived lack of control and problems with self‐forgiveness. After controlling for age, PTSD diagnosis, and substance use problems, independent variables that demonstrated a significant effect on suicide attempt history were perceived as punishment by God and lack of meaning/purpose. Conclusions Clinical screening for spiritual difficulties may improve detection of suicidality risk factors and refine treatment planning. Collaboration with spiritual care providers, such as chaplains, may enhance suicide prevention efforts.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

John Wiley & Sons

Publication Type:

Article
REACH Publication
Featured Research

Author Affiliation:

Mental Health and Chaplaincy, Department of Veterans Affairs, MAS
VA Mid‐Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC), Durham Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, MAS
VA Mid‐Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC), Durham Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, CJ
Mental Health and Chaplaincy, Department of Veterans Affairs, JAN
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine, JAN
VA Mid‐Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC), Durham Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, MB
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine, MB
Mental Health and Chaplaincy, Department of Veterans Affairs, KGM
Departments of Psychiatry and Preventative Medicine, Graduate Department of Religion, Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, Vanderbilt University, KGM
VA Mid‐Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC), Durham Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, Workgroup
VA Mid‐Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC), Durham Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, EBE
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine, EBE

Keywords:

chaplaincy, coping, moral injury, PTSD/posttraumatic stress disorder, religion, resilience, self‐harm, spirituality, suicide, trauma

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

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