Skip to main content

Robert Burns, of the Associated Press, reports that suicides of US Army soldiers doubled last month, to 26 from 12 per month, reaching a total of 155 for all active duty soldiers for the first 154 days of this year. On average, one American soldier commits suicide every day.    

WASHINGTON (AP) — Suicides among active-duty soldiers in July more than doubled from June, accelerating a trend throughout the military this year that has prompted Pentagon leaders to redouble efforts to solve a puzzling problem. ...

"Suicide is the toughest enemy I have faced in my 37 years in the Army," said Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the Army's vice chief of staff, who is spearheading his service's efforts to find ways to halt the surge in suicides. ... "That said, I do believe suicide is preventable," Austin added. "To combat it effectively will require sophisticated solutions aimed at helping individuals to build resiliency and strengthen their life coping skills."
Suicidal behavior in the military is thought to be related to cumulative stress from combat duty, but it also is believed to be linked to a range of other pressures such as marital and financial problems as well as health issues.

Of the 26 active-duty soldiers who committed suicide in July, all were male and only two were officers, according to figures provided by the Army's office of public affairs. Thirteen were married, 10 were single and three were divorced. A breakdown of the deployment history of 14 of the 26 showed that six had never been deployed, seven had been deployed between one and three times, and one had been deployed six times.
So far this year the number of suicides in the military has surged beyond expectations, given that the pace of combat deployments has begun to slow. The Defense Department closely tracks suicides throughout the military but releases its figures only once a year. The Associated Press in June obtained an internal Defense Department document that revealed that there had been 154 suicides in the first 155 days of the year, though June 3. That marked the fastest pace of active-duty military suicides in the nation's decade of war.

Continued below the fold.

The Tragedy Assistance program for Survivors, a private support group, said "counseling and other forms of care for emotionally distraught military members is often too little, too late. Others never seek help out of fear over how others will view seeking treatment,"

I don't know how the suicide rate in the armed services compares to the rates in the same demographic group of non-service members, so I don't want to make any editorial comments about the "hidden cost of the decades long war."  Nor, do I know the different rates for those deployed in combat, versus those not in combat.  But, I do feel sympathy for our young men and women in the armed forces who are suffering distress while bravely serving our country, no matter what we feel about the war itself, we should support them receiving better medical care and counseling, when needed.  

We need a better understanding of the causes in order to focus our prevention efforts. I believe the DOD has phased out the use of the anti-malaria drug Larium that had been implicated in significantly increased rates of suicide, and psychosis.  I took it when having to travel to malaria afflicted regions when I was a consultant-teacher, and was stunned by the warning brochures.  This illustrates the need for better epidemiological studies, because the causes of suicide are not always just individual psychologies.  

I hope the DOD deploys more resources to understanding these problems and getting our soldiers the medical attention they need, both now, and after their tours of duty are over.  Many will carry the scars of this war for the rest of their lives. We should be willing to pay the cost of their health care needs that arise as a consequence of their service.

And, our sympathies, and hearts go out to the families, and loved ones of all the soldiers lost for whatever reasons to suicides, combat, and all other causes.  

1:43 PM PT: I just retrieved the IGTNT Candle as a symbol of honor, respect, and remembrance.  I should have put it in the main test. Sorry.


Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  How about this? (6+ / 0-)
    We need a better understanding of the causes in order to focus our prevention efforts.
    It's the now 12 year senseless, purposeless war.

    Peace to those brave that our afflicted.

    Leave NOW!

    Stop the War.

    Somebody said Party! I got excited. I love Parties! Especially Parties with exclamation marks! Now I'm sad because there's not a Party! h/t AnnetteK ;-)

    by EdMass on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 01:42:03 PM PDT

    •  As I said in the post EdMass, I don't know the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jim P, FarWestGirl

      differential rates of suicide between the same demographic groups not in the services so just on the basis of this report, I can't make inference that the length of war, and pro-longed deployments is the cause, although, I would grant they are suspect.

      I have not favored this war in Afghanistan for quite some time, but, did not want to mix my persona political l views, in the tragic news for so many families.  I understand your comments, though.

      The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by HoundDog on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 01:49:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Many would make the inference HD that (4+ / 0-)

        the multiple deployments that our troops are being subjected to, would be more than suspect.

        I can't make inference that the length of war, and pro-longed deployments is the cause, although, I would grant they are suspect.
        An all volunteer army is unsustainable, given our forays around the globe, with more promised.

        90,000 in Afghanistan, but over 113,000 private contractors, and our allies are starting to pull out.

        And we are so mired down there now.

        "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand? David Crosby.

        by allenjo on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 02:03:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I know. I just didn't want to jump to that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          conclusion based only on the data presented here, as it would risk weakening the argument if anyone with a basic statistics course came along and show me down for going beyond what the report suggest.  I'd be happy to read any other post folks want to bring where this link is established with statistics, as I'd be surprised if it were not true.  

          With over 500,000 troops in service, I don't know what the comparable suicide rate would be for an equivalent number of the same demographics sitting at home watching reality TV would be.

          And, there are plenty enough other reasons to oppose, or favor the war, that wasn't the point of my post. I don't think anyone is is for, or against is going to change their mind based on establishing this link, although I favor research to establish it.

          The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

          by HoundDog on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 02:31:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Bring them home! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HoundDog, SpecialKinFlag, FarWestGirl

      endless war, unwinnable war.

      What are we fighting for?

      "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand? David Crosby.

      by allenjo on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 01:58:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  global presence in about 60 per cent of the world (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, SpecialKinFlag, FarWestGirl

    Special US commandos are deployed in about 75 countries around the world - and that number is expected to grow.

    Without the knowledge of much of the general American public, a secret force within the US military is undertaking operations in a majority of the world's countries. This Pentagon power elite is waging a global war whose size and scope has generally been ignored by the mainstream media, and deserves further attention.

    After a US Navy SEAL put a bullet in Osama bin Laden's chest and another in his head, one of the most secretive black-ops units in the US military suddenly found its mission in the public spotlight.  It was atypical.  While it's well known that US Special Operations forces are deployed in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it's increasingly apparent that such units operate in murkier conflict zones like Yemen and Somalia, the full extent of their worldwide war has often remained out of the public scrutiny.

    Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that US Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency.  By the end of this year, US Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. "We do a lot of travelling - a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq," he said recently. This global presence - in about 60 per cent of the world's nations and far larger than previously acknowledged - is evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.

    "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand? David Crosby.

    by allenjo on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 02:10:19 PM PDT

  •  all troops now to be armed against Afghans..... (4+ / 0-)

    All coalition troops at Afghan bases now armed around the clock.

        (CNN) -- The uptick in attacks by Afghan security forces against coalition troops has hit home, with all troops at NATO headquarters and all bases across Afghanistan now ordered to carry loaded weapons around the clock, CNN learned Friday.

        Gen. John Allen, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, ordered the move, according to a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the orders. The order, made in recent days, was divulged amid two more so-called green-on-blue or insider attacks Friday.

    "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand? David Crosby.

    by allenjo on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 02:12:49 PM PDT

  •  The Army suicide rate appears to be higher (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, grover, FarWestGirl, kurious

    than the civilian rate.

    The current Army suicide rate seven months into this year is 29 deaths-per-100,000, far surpassing last year’s rate of about 23 deaths-per-100,000....  -snip-

    Those rates compare with a 2009 civilian rate — the latest available data — of 18.5 for a demographically similar population.

  •  How many of these soldiers are medicated with (4+ / 0-)

    drugs that have suicidal ideation as one of the side effects?

    •  My guess would be that most were not medicated at (0+ / 0-)


      The diary doesn't specify a breakdown between male & female suicides, I'm assuming the men heavily outnumber the women.

      Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

      by FarWestGirl on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 04:47:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why would you guess that, when (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        roseeriter, FarWestGirl

        At least one in six service members is on some form of psychiatric drug.

        • Antipsychotic medications, including Seroquel and Risperdal, spiked most dramatically — orders jumped by more than 200 percent, and annual spending more than quadrupled, from $4 million to $16 million.

        • Use of anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives such as Valium and Ambien also rose substantially; orders increased 170 percent, while spending nearly tripled, from $6 million to about $17 million.

        • Antiepileptic drugs, also known as anticonvulsants, were among the most commonly used psychiatric medications. Annual orders for these drugs increased about 70 percent, while spending more than doubled, from $16 million to $35 million.

        • Antidepressants had a comparatively modest 40 percent gain in orders, but it was the only drug group to show an overall decrease in spending, from $49 million in 2001 to $41 million in 2009, a drop of 16 percent. The debut in recent years of cheaper generic versions of these drugs is likely responsible for driving down costs.

        Antidepressants and anticonvulsants are the most common mental health medications prescribed to service members. Seventeen percent of the active-duty force, and as much as 6 percent of deployed troops, are on antidepressants, Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, the Army’s highest-ranking psychiatrist, told Congress on Feb. 24.

        In contrast, about 10 percent of all Americans take antidepressants, according to a 2009 Columbia University study.

        What I think: imho there are a lot of people with guns who are getting suicidal ideas from their medication, there are some who are getting more energy and the ability to act on their ideas from their medication, and ALSO: I suspect there are a lot of sudden deaths that occur alone that are not gunshot wounds that are "unexplainable," and so they get labelled as suicide. But some of these drugs like seroquel and risperdal have a side-effect of "sudden unexplained death." I think that the elderly, too, are sometimes dying of a side effect of their medication but unable to tell people that.
      •  "More than 110,000 active-duty Army troops last... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        roseeriter, FarWestGirl

        year took antidepressants, sedatives and other prescription medications. Some see a link to aberrant behavior." (emphasis mine)

        ...In a small but growing number of cases across the nation, lawyers are blaming the U.S. military's heavy use of psychotropic drugs for their clients' aberrant behavior and related health problems...

        ...After two long-running wars with escalating levels of combat stress, more than 110,000 active-duty Army troops last year were taking prescribed antidepressants, narcotics, sedatives, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs, according to figures recently disclosed to The Times by the U.S. Army surgeon general. Nearly 8% of the active-duty Army is now on sedatives and more than 6% is on antidepressantsan eightfold increase since 2005...

        In addition, there was this study of: Medication Misuse in US Service members which found that...

        In Civilians: 2.5% Prescription Medication Misuse in past 30 days, 4.4% among members of general population age matched with Service Members...

        In Service members: –11.1% 30 days incidence of PMM
        –18.4% in the past 12 months (23.1% in Army)

        The stressors of being in today's military, with a decade long war still ongoing, and a second decade long war just ended can only be imagined.  The military's "heavy use of psychotrophic" drugs--an eightfold increase--IMHO illustrates just how high is the level of stress.

  •  Let's not forget that the chief at Madigan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Army Hospital was found to be minimizing and under-diagnosing PTSD. If that happened at Ft Lewis/JBLM, it's happening everywhere.

    We HAVE to stay on top of our senators, Congressmen/women and governors to maintain civilian oversight. I think that this is one issue that the GOP agrees with us on: broken souls need treatment, not to be kicked to the curb.

    We need to write letters, emails, call and then do it all over again two weeks from now, then two weeks after that and every 14 days until the suicide rate drops precipitously. These are women and men who are supposed to have the best healthcare available to them -- and they can be treated involuntarily. The suicide rate should be far lower than the civilian rate.

    We need to commit ourselves, regardless of anything else that's happening. It's not so very hard. We just have to do. Ask your friends, family, FB friends, tweet it. Compose letters for them to copy, paste, sign and mail.

    We can speak with one voice. We must. Lives depend on it.

    © grover

    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 04:27:59 PM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site