According to the Pentagon, a record number of military suicides occurred in 2012, with 349 active duty service members taking their own lives. This is a 16 percent increase from 2011, and also the highest incidence reported since the Department of Defense began tracking suicides in 2001.
David Rudd, a military suicide researcher and dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Utah, said he sees two main categories of troops who are committing suicide at an accelerating pace: Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress or substance abuse, and those who have not gone to war but face troubled personal relationships, money problems or legal woes.
“Veterans in need of help need to know that they are not alone. They need to be connected with health care and support services in their local areas,” said U.S. Veterans Hospice Committee Executive Director Gerry Johnson. “The need is great and is likely to grow over the next few years as more soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan come home,” said Johnson. “But it won’t only be mental health prevention and intervention that will be needed. Many of these soldiers will face chronic or terminal illnesses and the hospice care that they need just isn’t available. We need for Congress to wake up and take action today.”
The U.S. Army, the largest of the military services by far, had the highest number of suicides among active-duty troops last year at 182, but the U.S. Marine Corps, whose suicide numbers had declined for two years, had the largest percentage increase – a 50 percent jump to 48. The U.S. Air Force recorded 59 suicides, up 16 percent from the previous year, and the Navy had 60, up 15 percent.
If you know a veteran in crisis, please share with them the VA’s toll-free 24-hour Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 press 1).