U.S. soldiers have a higher risk of suicide if they're sent to a war zone soon after joining the military or if they have repeat deployments six months or less apart, researchers say.
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They looked at 593 men and women in the U.S. Army who had been deployed twice and who attempted suicide between 2004 and 2009, NBC News reported.
"Those who served 12 or fewer months before their first deployment were approximately twice as likely to attempt suicide during or after their second deployment compared with those who had more time to train and acclimate to the military before initial deployment," Dr. Robert Ursano, of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and colleagues wrote.
Soldiers who were re-deployed within six months or less were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide, according to the study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Short periods between deployments are common in the U.S. military as it sends troops to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and there are rising rates of suicide among veterans. In 2014, an average of 20 veterans died by suicide each day, the Veterans Affairs Department says, NBC News reported.
"Rates of suicidal behaviors, including suicide deaths, attempts, and ideation, among U.S. Army soldiers increased considerably during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," Ursano and colleagues wrote.
The study findings make sense psychologically, Time Barclay, a clinical psychologist at the nonprofit Collateral Damage Project, which provides free mental health treatment to veterans.
Combat "literally changes the brain at a functional and cellular level," he told NBC News. "It causes an overreaction of the sympathetic nervous system that doesn't shut off."
Being deployed too soon after joining the military increases that stress, according to Patricia Spencer, who trains social workers about military culture.
These new soldiers "haven't had a chance yet to really bond with their unit, their squad," Spencer told NBC News.
"In suicide prevention we know that connections and having a sense of connection can be a protective factor. Somebody brand new into the military, they are not going to have quite that sense of connection with their unit and squad," she explained.
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