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ASU psychology professor co-authors study on military suicides

Dr. Rebecca Blais
Dr. Rebecca Blais
Dr. Rebecca Blais is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Arizona State University

A new study is providing recommendations to address a rising suicide rate among military members.

The report, commissioned by the Department of Defense last year, was written by 10 public and mental health experts nationwide, including Dr. Rebecca Blais, a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Arizona State University.

Prominent among their suggestions is gun control.

“Firearms are the number one way that service members will die by suicide and what we are seeing is that when we looked at the psychological autopsies, these are individuals who didn’t have a lot of know risk factors,” Blais said.

The study found in 2021 that two-thirds of all active duty military suicides were firearm-related, a figure that rose to three-quarters among National Guardsmen and Reserve.

Blais says recommendations include making sure guns are properly stored on base to imposing waiting periods for personal purchases.

“What we are asking is for the Department of Defense to include a waiting period and include a different type of system that when service members purchase the weapons, they couldn’t, say, purchase the weapon when they are in distress," Blais said.

The report also calls for curtailing excessive alcohol use, adding more mental health clinicians and making the military more accessible for modern families.

“These are dual-career spouses, these are women who are in the military who might have a spouse at home. And so what we’re largely seeing is that these people who are in the military who have families, the military is not set up for them,” Blais said.

The Department of Defense is expected to implement an action plan this summer in response to the recommendations.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, there is help. Contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 (en Español, llame al 988, prensa 2; for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, dial 711 then 988). You may also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Phil Latzman is an award-winning digital journalist and broadcast professional with over 25 years of experience covering news and sports on a multitude of platforms.