Integrating Two Theoretical Models to Understand and Prevent Military and Veteran Suicide


In 2009, the rate of military suicides surpassed that of suicides in the U.S. general population. While suicide was the 10th ranked cause of death in the U.S. general population in 2013, during this same time suicide was the leading cause of death among active duty military personnel, with more personnel dying by suicide than combat. The belief in the “healthy soldier effect,” that individuals at risk for suicide would not be selected for service, no longer holds true. This research considers these issues in depth.


Despite increasing prevention efforts, military suicide rates have surpassed those of the general population. This trend may reflect a deficit in our understanding of suicide, historically atheoretical and based on decreasing risk factors of suicide. The interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide (IPTS) provides a theoretical foundation to understand suicide but only assesses three risk factors of suicide and is primarily aimed at explaining who may die by suicide, but not when. The fluid vulnerability theory (FVT) provides a broad theoretical framework to understand and organize risk and protective factors of suicide in order to understand the process of suicide risk over time. Overlaying the IPTS's constructs of thwarted belongingness, perceived burdensomeness, and the acquired capability for suicide within the FVT framework provides a robust model to understand not only who is at risk for suicide but also when suicide risk is likely to emerge.

Full Reference

Integrating Two Theoretical Models to Understand and Prevent Military and Veteran Suicide. Andrea L. Wolfe-Clark, Craig J. Bryan. Armed Forces & Society. Vol 43, Issue 3, pp. 478 - 499.