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Army Suicide Rates Record High

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, January 29, 2009 9:18 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Mental Health, Military, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The Marines and Army are experiencing a record number of suicides, meanwhile military psychologist positions are unfilled by 40 percent.



IMAGE SOURCE:  Wikimedia Commons/ soldier in Iraq/ author: Sgt. Luis R. Agostini


The rate of suicide among Army troops is at a three-decade high, the Army announced today.   

In 2008, 128 returning soldiers killed themselves and an unknown number of suspected suicides are still not folded into that picture.

In 2004, when annual suicides were first recorded, there were 64 suicides; in 2005- 87; in 2006- 102; and in 2007- 115, the Army said.

That comes to a rate of 20.2 per 100,000 soldiers, reports USA Today. Compare that figure to 18-24 year-old males not in the military – the suicide rate is about 19.8 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other branches of the military also report an increase in suicides.  According to Marine Corp statistics, 41 Marines committed suicide last year- a 24 percent increase from 2007.  The Army and Marines are the primary forces involved in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Most suicides occurred after soldiers returned home and found that life was not the same.  Personal relationships, legal, or financial issues accounted for most of the problems, USA Today reports quoting Defense officials.

The military does not track deaths after people leave the service.  But the Veterans Administration does track those numbers and reports there were 144 suicides among a half-million service members during the years 2002-2005.  

The VA estimates about 18 veterans, from all wars, commit suicide every day. That translates into 6,500 suicides a year. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) afflicts approximately 20 percent of returning vets.  

Father and son, Rich and Robert Glasgow both suffered from PTSD. Rich saw it in his son - “sleeplessness, active aggression and zero tolerance for the Arab community,” he said in a Department of Defense newsletter.

Glasgow says service members should be prepared for what they may be dealing with before they go into combat and given the tools to address their emotions.  And he would like to see counseling offered to everyone upon their return.

“The military needs to do a better job preparing them,” Rich Glasgow said. “We tell them how to shoot, but we don’t prepare them for what happens when they do pull the trigger.”   

The Army has plans to conduct a “stand-down” for one month beginning in mid February, to train soldiers how to recognize symptoms of suicidal thoughts and to intervene with other soldiers.  

Col. Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatric consultant to the Army surgeon general speaking to mental health professionals,  told the AP today, "We are hiring and we need your help.”  #

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