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.
Continued below the fold.
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.
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.