Monday, June 11, 2012

Military Suicides Now Outnumber War Deaths

It's been no secret to anyone that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused the suicide rate among active-duty military personnel to jump at an alarming rate over the last decade and the latest numbers out of the Defense Department give a sick score for 2012:

Number of war deaths since January 1 = 124

Number of military suicides since January 1 = 154

This puts the pace of military suicides at almost one per day so far this year and gives us a stark reminder that more of our troops are now killing themselves than are dying at the hands of the people we are fighting.

Here's the New York Times:
Suicides have increased even as the United States military has withdrawn from Iraq and stepped up efforts to provide mental health, drug and alcohol, and financial counseling services. 

The military said Friday that there had been 154 suicides among active-duty troops through Thursday, a rate of nearly one each day this year. The figures were first reported this week by The Associated Press.

That number represents an 18 percent increase over the 130 active-duty military suicides for the same period in 2011. There were 123 suicides from January to early June in 2010, and 133 during that period in 2009, the Pentagon said. 
Veterans groups -- and certainly all of us who have served -- know that it isn't rocket science to see that when you have an overextended military for a decade, the standard stress of a combat tour and the ridiculous and harmful number of times our troops are being sent back into action, this will always be the result.

“It is clear that the military, at the level of the platoon, the company and the battalion, that these things are not being addressed on a compassionate and understanding basis,” said Bruce Parry, chairman of the Coalition of Veterans Organizations.  “They need to understand on a much deeper level the trauma the troops are facing.”  

And Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said that the problem is not only the obvious causes, like multiple combat deployments, but also the shortage of mental health professionals and counseling to help active-duty troops and Veterans adjust to all facets of life once they return home -- such as taking care of their families.

“They are thinking about combat, yeah, but they are also thinking about their wives and kids back home,” said Rieckhoff.

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