Military Suicide Rates on the Rise
> 8/16/2007 10:16:42 AM

In one of the more disheartening reports to emerge from the lingering haze of the United States' overseas engagements, the American military confirmed that 99 active-duty servicemembers committed suicide in 2006; while the actual number was higher in previous years, the percentage of soldiers who ended their own lives during that 12-month period was the highest in more than a quarter century.

The statistic (17.6 per 100,000 servicemembers) seems almost miniscule on paper, but the steady rise witnessed over the last five years is all the more tragic when considered on an individual case basis: these are men and women, bravely serving their country in a difficult, protracted campaign, who see no alternative to ending their own lives. The most important questions raised by this statistic: how significant is the report, and what combination of factors has led the number to rise so steeply from its 2001 low of 9.1 per 100,000? (the average number, over the last 26 years, has been 12.3) Participation in current conflicts obviously plays a large role in shaping the trend: per capita numbers were higher for those serving overseas (19.4) and the report noted a significant correlation between the number of days a soldier had been deployed and the probability that he or she would commit suicide. 28 of the 99 listed victims killed themselves while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

This report focuses only on current servicemembers, but the military numbers do not truly dwarf the nationwide statistics, and suicides are no more painful or tragic in either case: in 2004, for example, an estimated 10.9 per 100,000 Americans died of self-inflicted wounds, and 8 to 25 times that number attempted suicide. What drives a servicemember to commit the ultimate act of self-injury? The most common reasons, often assessed by surviving loved ones, are nearly identical to those that drive ordinary citizens to kill themselves every day: failed relationships, seemingly insurmountable legal and financial struggles and a general sense of hopelessness often facilitated by work stresses. Of course, the majority of suicides are preceded by one or more psychiatric afflictions: a quarter of the 99 soldiers suffered from at least one pre-existing mental health condition, and as these numbers include only those who'd already been diagnosed, the actual percentage is certainly much higher. Still, the fact that the confirmed presence of mental illness is considerably less common among military suicides than civilian suicides once again leads one to conclude that combat and service-related stresses play a huge role in the trend.

This type of report is not new, and the Army, under heavy criticism for their perceived lack of attention to mental health issues, has thankfully taken steps to address the problem. They can hardly be accused of ignorance or inaction, but current efforts have not succeeded in bringing the numbers down. Statistics for the first half of 2007 leave one slightly more optimistic, but unless the nature of our current engagements changes dramatically or the military makes even more drastic efforts to prevent suicide within its ranks, these numbers will most likely not go down anytime soon.


Could one of the reasons be that the recruiters take kids who are so fogged over in the head from spending half their teenage lives dinking and druging and lie to them from the get go about the life thier partaking, then when the kids get a clear head and realize what they've really gotten themselves into, they see no other why out...
Posted by: pierce 11/9/2007 7:37:48 AM

PierceSorry buddy but there are ways to get out of the military that are way better if not easier than suicide. I would guess that the reason would be that soldiers see some pretty messed up things in the middle East. They may have lost their best friend or all their friends. I met a soldier who was riding in a humvee with 4 others and they were hit by an IED and everyone but him died. It gets worse though, this happened to him twice. Except the second time him and 1 other soldier lived. I think that would take a pretty hard toll on any person in the world. A lot of soldiers know exactly what they are doing when they enlist in the Army, or at least have a pretty good idea. We don't shoot rainbows out of those rifles. It is true that recruiters are a little shady, but I think you need to realise the enormous stress on soldiers.In addition a deployment is tough on relationships. I know a few soldiers that had their wives clear out their bank accounts and divorce them while they were in Iraq. One soldier I know came back from leave and his wife told him she was 4 weeks pregnant. How would that make you feel after spending 6 months in the worst place on Earth.They can get out of the Army sure, but they can't get their experiences out of their heads. The Army fights wars, I think we all know who started them.
Posted by: No 12/7/2007 10:36:16 AM

Well,as you pointed in your story, it's difficult to find a way from this situation. I'm crossing fingers for everybody who is in this situation. Good luck!.
Posted by: cully 3/6/2008 10:55:24 AM

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