Elizabeth A. Stanley and Kelsey L. Larsen. “Emotion Dysregulation and Military Suicidality Since 2001: A Review of the Literature.” Political Psychology, Vol. 40, no. 1 (2019): 147-163. https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12493
Policy makers and researchers have worked to explain the perplexing rise in U.S. military suicides since 2001, with little progress in explaining this widespread phenomenon. This article synthesizes several literatures to highlight the role of emotion dysregulation in military suicidality. After considering advances in suicidal ideation-to-action frameworks and the factors that contribute to the prevalence of emotion dysregulation in the modern U.S. military, it explores how military service provides for two distinct circumstances in which such emotion dysregulation may facilitate the transition from suicidal ideation to behavior. The first circumstance is high distress tolerance, wherein the effects of disproportionately high rates of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among service-members may increase vulnerability to suicidal behavior. The second circumstance is preexisting acquired capability with lethal means paired with executive functioning degradation. Empirically associated with military environments, such degradation may undermine the effectiveness of top-down emotion regulation strategies—thereby allowing acquired familiarity with lethal means to assist the transition from suicidal ideation to action. Thus, emotion dysregulation’s unique relationship with the U.S. military may help to explain the powerful correlation between service and suicide since 2001—suggesting that enhancing emotion regulation skills may present a key leverage point for effectively addressing the issue.