Gun control cuts soldiers’ suicide risk
THE first study into suicide in the Irish defence forces recommends that soldiers’ access to weapons be minimised.
It proposes reducing the number of personnel who carry firearms or the frequency of armed duties and suggests a “buddy system” could be introduced to help depressed soldiers.
The study by psychiatrists at University College Dublin, which was approved by the defence forces, analysed all deaths from 1970 to 2002 in Ireland’s three military services — the army, navy and air corps.
Deaths that occurred overseas while personnel were on peacekeeping duties were also included. It was the first time all records in relation to deaths in the defence forces were opened up to civilians.
The authors found a lower rate of suicide using guns in the Irish forces than international studies did of American military personnel and German police, possibly reflecting tighter controls on weapons and ammunition.
The research, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, was prompted by media reports a few years ago of several incidences of self-inflicted gunshot wounds among military personnel.
In 33 years there were 732 deaths of which 63 (8.5%) were suicides. More than half of these (53%) were suicide by gunshot, mostly from firing a weapon placed in the mouth. About half the suicides occurred on a military site and 37% were while the person was on duty.
Suicides that took place on duty occurred predominantly when personnel were alone shortly after commencing duty in the morning.
“The opportunity to take one’s own life would be reduced if the possibility for men to be alone with an armed weapon was minimised,” said Dr Martin Mahon of UCD’s department of psychiatry and mental health research.
“Nearly all of the firearm suicides took place alone, when the man removed himself from company or his companion on duty.”
Irish soldiers do not carry guns at all times. They are rostered on for regimental duty, several times a month, for which they are armed. Much of their armed duties involve support to the gardai when escorting prisoners and amoured vans carrying cash, and while on sentry duties at prisons.
When the authors looked at the time of day that the suicides by firearm took place they found there was an uneven risk at different parts of the shift. There were significantly more between 8.30am and 12.30pm.
“We saw that soldiers seem to take their lives shortly after coming on duty,” said Mahon. This suggests suicide may have been premeditated in anticipation of access to guns.
Mahon compared the phenomenon to research of civilians in America where it was found there was a substantial increase in firearm suicide risk within a week of the purchase of a handgun.
While the factors that led military recruits to have suicidal thoughts were similar to the general population, they differed in that they had access to guns. “Soldiers don’t differ greatly from other men and women in society who take their lives in that they suffer mental illness and stresses which puts them at risk,” said Mahon.
The suicide rate among the military was found to be 15.3 per 100,000, slightly lower than that in the Irish male civilian population where it was 18.3 per 100,000.
The authors said lower suicide rates may be expected in the military because soldiers underwent medical screening prior to enlistment and there was a supportive environment and tailored medical services.
The authors put forward several ideas about how the military authorities around the world could lower suicide rates. They recommended reducing unsupervised and unauthorised access to armed weapons and eliminating solitary armed duties, or performing these duties under camera surveillance if this is not possible.
Something of a misleading title to the thread.
It's just recommending that soldiers shouldn't be roaming around on their own with live ammo. Doesn't seem to be all that stupid a recommendation, even if simply out of security's sake, not even going near psychiatric reasons. It's not advocating the removal of weapons at all.
And yes, the Permanent defense forces are some 10,500 strong, with a similar amount of reservists. Nevertheless, Ireland is still the fourth or seventh (Can't recall)-largest contributor of troops to UN ops.
And without the Irish Army, there wouldn't have been a Braveheart, so there!
Wonder what the other 92 percent of the deaths were attributed to?
So in 33 years about 10 Irish soldiers out of THOUSANDS who served during that period committed suicide with a gun " not necessrily an issued weapon " on duty ???
What a bunch of pansies.................