Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience
> 8/9/2010 4:53:23 PM

Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service Members (Army STARRS)

The Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service Members (Army STARRS) is the largest study of suicide and mental health among military personnel ever undertaken. Army STARRS will identify – as rapidly as possible – modifiable risk and protective factors related to mental health and suicide. It also will support the Army's ongoing efforts to prevent suicide and improve soldiers' overall wellbeing.

Beginning in 2002, the suicide rate among soldiers rose significantly, reaching record levels in 2007 and again in 2008 despite the Army's major prevention and intervention efforts. In response, the Army and NIMH partnered to develop and implement STARRS, with Army funding.

The Study

In the first phase, Army STARRS investigators will examine historical records from several existing databases. They will focus on how well variables in these databases predict suicide or suicide attempts and then use this data to prepare for an unprecedented study of soldiers across all areas of Army service.

In the second phase, study investigators will gather information from a representative sample of approximately 90,000 active duty soldiers (including mobilized Reserve Component and National Guard Soldiers). This information will describe the soldiers' psychological and physical health, exposure to adverse events, attitudes, social support, leadership and unit climate, training and knowledge, employment and economic status, family history, and other potentially relevant areas of interest. Biological specimens (e.g., saliva and/or blood) will also be collected for genetic and neurobiological studies.

In addition, investigators will seek parallel information from all new recruits entering the Army in each of the first three years of the five-year study (estimated to be 80,000 to 120,000 soldiers per year). Investigators will follow all participants over the course of the study period. The information gathered during this time will help to identify characteristics, events, experiences, and exposures that may predict who will exhibit mental health problems.

In addition to Army funding, Army STARRS was awarded a $10 million supplement through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The supplement will enhance the project by permitting expansion of:

  • the range of outcomes, to emphasize anxiety, mood, impulse-control, and substance use disorders in addition to suicide;
  • the range of neurobiological predictors and psychosocial risk factors to be examined;
  • the study sample to include Marines; and
  • the study design to facilitate evaluation of interventions introduced by the military over the course of the study.

The length and scope of the study will provide vast amounts of data and allow investigators to focus on periods in a military career that are known to be high-risk for psychological problems. The information gathered throughout the study will help researchers identify not only potentially relevant risk factors but potential protective factors as well. Study investigators will move quickly to provide information that the Army can use immediately in its suicide prevention efforts and use to address psychological health issues.

The Research Team

NIMH has assembled a consortium of experts including teams from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Services, University of Michigan, Harvard University and Columbia University as well as Army and NIMH scientists.

The interdisciplinary team is led by Robert Ursano, M.D., of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. The consortium's other investigators are:

  • Steven Herringa, Ph.D., University of Michigan
  • Ronald Kessler, Ph.D., Harvard University
  • John Mann, M.D., Columbia University
  • Army and NIMH scientists

This research team brings together international leaders in military health, health and behavior surveys, epidemiology, and suicide as well as genetic and neurobiological factors involved in suicidal behavior.

The depth and breadth of the research team, the tremendous scale of the project, and the immediacy of the research findings mean that Army STARRS is truly groundbreaking research.




From the National Institute of Menatl Health

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