Army applies data to improve suicide prevention

The U.S. Army is taking a more data-driven approach to predicting suicide risk, according to Federal News Radio, working on determining when and how to best intervene with patients.

In June, it completed a roughly five-year project, the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS). The project was conducted with help from the National Institutes of Health and major universities, and studied characteristics of suicide and other mental and behavioral health issues. It examined factors such as demographic information, medical and law enforcement history, as well as military factors such as a soldier's rank, deployment location and number of tours.

At the project's onset, the military suicide rate had surpassed that of the civilian population. The project identified 3,000 people out of an Army population of 500,000 at possible risk of suicide.

Meanwhile, the Army Resilience Directorate (ARD) is taking a broader look at physical, psychological, social and spiritual characteristics, and has identified 540 factors that might influence a soldier's resilience and readiness.

One of the issues for Army STARRS and the ARD has been in combining disparate databases; another is determining what to do with their results. So far, the data is being used create or update training guides on behavioral and mental health for commanders and leaders. 

Using electronic health records and in-depth diagnostic interviews, Geisinger Health System is working on identifying specific genetic risk factors that put national guardsmen and reservists at risk of post-discharge behavioral health conditions.

Meanwhile, Indiana University School of Medicine recently reported that RNA biomarkers from blood samples, combined with questionnaires filled out through an app, can enable clinicians to intervene with patients at risk of suicide and other psychiatric problems.

To learn more:
- read the Federal News Radio article