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Team to Conduct Largest Ever Study of Suicide in the Military

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(Great Neck, N.Y. - July 23, 2009) — NARSAD Scientific Council member and Distinguished Investigator J. John Mann, M.D., of Columbia University, is one of four leading experts in suicide research who will carry out the largest study of suicide and mental health among American military personnel ever undertaken to better identify risk and protective factors and provide a base for more effective and practical interventions.

The announcement was made on July 17 by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which signed an agreement with the U.S. Army in October authorizing NIMH to undertake the investigation with the support of $50 million in Army funding.

The study is a direct response to the Army’s request to NIMH to enlist the most promising scientific approaches for addressing the substantial increase in the suicide rate among soldiers since the beginning of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although planned to continue for five years, the study is designed to be able to respond quickly to potential risk factors that can inform the continuing research and the Army’s ongoing efforts to stem the rising tide of suicides.

“This study will add to an extensive body of research on suicide and help us better understand the unique factors contributing to suicide’s increasing prevalence among our service men and women,” said Dr. Mann, chief of the division of molecular imaging and neuropathology and vice chair for research at Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 25- to 44-year-olds in the United States, but historically the rate was lower in the military than among civilians. In 2008, that pattern was reversed, with the suicide rate in the Army exceeding the rate in the civilian population (20.2 out of 100,000 vs. 19.2).

Dr. Mann has led groundbreaking research to better understand what triggers suicide and to identify high-risk patients.

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