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Risk factors of suicidal ideation in a population of UK military veterans seeking support for mental health difficulties
  1. Larissa Harden1 and
  2. D Murphy2
  1. 1 Academic Department of Military Mental Health, Weston Education Centre, King’s College London, London, UK
  2. 2 Combat Stress, Leatherhead, Surrey, UK
  1. Correspondence to Miss Larissa Harden, Academic Department of Military Mental Health, Weston Education Centre, King’s College London, London SE5 9RJ, UK; larissa.harden{at}


Background Little has been reported regarding the risk factors of suicidal ideation in individuals once they have left the military in the UK. The aim of this paper was to explore the risk factors associated with suicidal ideation in a sample of treatment-seeking veterans.

Methods Using a cross-sectional design, participants included veterans (n=144) seeking treatment from a national mental health charity in the UK. Individuals completed questionnaires regarding their military experiences, pre-enlistment factors and health. Data were then linked to risk assessments extracted from clinical records.

Results After controlling for relevant variables, suicidal ideation was significantly higher in veterans who were unemployed (OR 8.01; 95% CI 1.79 to 35.80), were early service leavers (OR 8.46; 95% CI 2.21 to 32.35) and those with a history of childhood adversity (OR 6.92; 95% CI 2.10 to 22.82). In addition, taking longer than 5 years to seek help was associated with a reduced risk of suicidal ideation (OR 0.10; 95% CI 0.06 to 0.87). There was no association between health outcomes and suicidal ideation.

Conclusions Risk factors associated with suicidal ideation in this sample of veterans included: being unemployed, an early service leaver, taking less than 5 years to seek help and experiencing preservice adversity.

  • Veterans
  • Combat Stress
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Risk
  • PTSD
  • Mental Health

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  • Contributors LH was responsible for writing the manuscript. DM conducted the analysis, edited the manuscript and provided supervision.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests DM is a paid employee of Combat Stress.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.