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As suicide rates rise, researchers separate thoughts from actions

Better understanding of risk factors could help those contemplating taking their own lives

By
3:54pm, December 29, 2015
depressed soldier

OVER THE EDGE  There’s a wide chasm between contemplating suicide and taking action to end one’s life. Researchers are getting a clearer sense of the factors involved and are helping military personnel at greatest risk. 

Craig Bryan treats military personnel who struggle with thoughts of ending their own lives, as well as those who’ve survived an actual suicide attempt. But these days he’s fighting an uphill battle.

Suicide rates in the United States have been rising, especially among veterans and members of the armed forces. Traditional assumptions about why people kill themselves have not led to effective strategies for suicide prevention, Bryan says. So in recent years psychologists and others have been reconsidering basic beliefs about why people carry out the ultimate act of self-destruction.

“There has been an explosion of new thinking about suicide in the past decade,” says Bryan, a clinical psychologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

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