Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Military suicides exceed number killed in combat

The number of U.S. military service members who committed suicide last year reached an all-time high of 349, outpacing the number killed in combat, according to military officials. The suicides "underscored the toll a decade of wars has taken on the all-volunteer force and the extenet to which the Pentagon continues to grapple with an issue senior leaders have called an epidemic," Ernesto Londono of The Washington Post reports. Veterans and active-duty service members come disproportionately from rural places.

The Pentagon has tracked suicides since 2001, and the military became concerned in 2006 when the rates began to rise. The military saw about one suicide a day last summer, prompting Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to express frustration. The rate remains slightly lower than in the general population, but officials say it is "nonetheless unacceptably high," Londono reports. The military has implemented several programs to encourage veterans and active-duty members to seek help for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, including hiring more behavioral health-care professionals, expanding a mental-health crisis line and starting a long-term study of mental health for service members.

The Marine Corps, which has had success in lowering its suicide rate, saw a 50 percent increase last year over 2011. The branch's number of attempted suicides last year reached a record high at 179. The Army had 182 suicides in 2012, compared to 159 in 2011. The Navy and Air Force, which have traditionally had lower rates of suicide than the Army and Marines, saw suicide rates increase by 15 and 16 percent, respectively. (Read more)

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