The Army Study To Assess Risk and Resilience in Service members research team is currently conducting a study to better understand the risks and factors associated with mental health, stress and suicide.
The Army STARRS research study is a partnership between The National Institute of Mental Health and the U.S. Army to identify the factors that may pose risks to soldiers’ emotional well-being and overall mental health.
“It’s the largest study of mental health risk and resilience that the military has ever conducted,” said Dr. Kevin Quinn, medical psychologist, NIMH program officer, Army STARRS. “We want to understand what might put a soldier at risk or what might make a soldier resilient to things that can increase or decrease the potential for suicide.”
“What we need to do, and what the study is designed to do is to contact a lot of soldiers,” said Quinn. “We’re on track with all the studies to have interviewed or surveyed 100,000 soldiers.”
The team assembled by NIMH includes participants from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, University of California, San Diego, University of Michigan, Harvard Medical School, NIMH and Army staff members.
The research will help the Army understand risks and factors of suicide, said Quinn. The rate of suicide has risen over the past five to seven years, but it is still an exceedingly rare event.
The study is designed to provide basic data to help aid other organizations studying prevention and risks associated with suicide, Quinn said.
Researchers look at the participant’s entire life, not just their military career.
“The basic component that’s involved in the majority of all the studies is the survey,” said Quinn. “We might look at the kinds of experiences that a soldier may have in the past before they ever entered the Army.”
The study will examine several different factors of the soldier’s life including: stress, deployments, exposures to trauma, family and personal history and demographics.
The survey can be taken in two different formats: a paper-and-pencil version and a computerized version. The method of testing would be determined by the research staff based on the location of the personnel being surveyed and the materials and equipment available.
The information received from the study is completely confidential. The only time any information is shared is if the team determines the soldier is in danger of self-harm or harming someone else.
“All of the information is de-identified,” said Quinn. “Although we are tracking all this information,” said Quinn. The research team gets it in a way so that all we have is a study number.” The research study is designed to be thorough and include detailed information about the participants.
The study will take five years and is designed to follow the participants as long as possible for a better understanding of the experiences they have been through, said Quinn.
“This has been a very complicated project,” said Quinn. “Five years to get to the point where we can have really good, useful and helpful information coming back is fast in the world of science.”
Once completed, the research will be turned back over to the Army to be used in developing ways to help prevent suicide. The findings will also be published in scientific literature to help civilians.
“We have already surveyed soldiers from three brigade combat teams before they deployed to Afghanistan,” said Quinn. “And now those deployments are winding down, and we are just gearing up to survey those soldiers as they come back from deployment. We will follow those specific soldiers over the next nine months after their return to see how they readjust to life outside of a combat zone.”
The research team updates Army leadership on a regular basis with the results of the data collected.
“The real heart of this, for the Army, is in the interchange we have on a regular basis where we sit down with Army leadership and we talk about what the latest findings are,” said Quinn.
“Once findings are provided to them, the Army leadership decides what courses of action to take from there,” said Scott Ludtke, deputy director of Army STARRS in the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of the Army.
“This is an opportunity for soldiers to help other soldiers,” said Ludtke. “That’s really what this study is about as well.” For more information about Army STARRS go to www.armystarrs.org.