The Influence of Training, Reluctance, Efficacy, and Stigma on Suicide Intervention Behavior Among NCOs in the Army and Marine Corps

Published in: The Journal of Primary Prevention, 2016

Posted on RAND.org on March 02, 2016

by Lynsay Ayer, Rajeev Ramchand, Lily Geyer, Lane F. Burgette, Aaron Kofner

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Research Question

  1. What can the Army and Marine Corps do to ensure that "gatekeeper" personnel—non-commissioned officers (NCOs)—are adequately positioned to prevent suicides within their units?

The Army and Marine Corps have consistently experienced the highest rates of suicide relative to the other services. In both the Army and Marine Corps, the service members responsible for identifying and referring individuals at risk for suicide are called "gatekeepers" and are typically noncommissioned officers (NCOs). We used structural equation modeling on survey responses from 1184 Army soldiers and 796 marines to estimate the relationships between training, intervention efficacy, reluctance, and mental health stigma on NCO intervention behaviors. Efficacy and reluctance were independently associated with intervention behaviors, and stigma was only associated with intervention behaviors among Army NCOs. Study results suggest that while quantity of training may help NCOs feel more confident about their ability to intervene, other efforts such as changing training content and delivery mode (e.g., interactive vs. didactic training) may be necessary in order to reduce reluctance and stigma to intervene with service members at risk for suicide.

Key Findings

  • Surveys of Army and Marine Corps NCOs found that more hours of training were associated with increased confidence about intervening with a service member at risk for suicide.
  • No relationship was found between amount of training and reluctance to intervene or stigma.
  • NCOs who felt more confident about their intervention skills and less reluctant to talk with other service members about suicide were more likely to intervene with at-risk service members.

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