While we have repeatedly reported on armed forces deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas of the Middle East, those are not the only soldiers to die. A recent report has found that one active-duty member in 2012 commits suicide every single day.
According to the Associated Press that number is the largest rate since troops began fighting in the Middle East 10 years ago with 154 suicides reported for the first 155 days of 2012. In fact suicides are nearly doubled in 2012 compared to the number of soldiers who have been killed by enemy forces.
In 2010 and 2011 the number of active military members committing suicide had leveled off and at this time officials are not sure why those deaths have increased. One educated guess for the recent surge is the longevity of combat exposure. Other experts believe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the misuse of prescription medications are to blame. In other cases personal financial problems outside of combat could be claiming the lives of some soldiers.
Putting this years number of suicides into perspective, 130 soldiers had committed suicide by the same time period in 2011, an 18 percent year-over-year increase. As morbid as it may sound the Pentagon estimates suicide rates each year and 155 is also far above its predicted rate of 136.2.
Suicide rates among armed forces personnel is also up 25% compared to 2010 numbers and 16 percent above 2009 suicides.
Members of the military’s health services have attempted to convince more of the services 1.4 million active-duty military personnel to seek council for their mental health problems but in a male dominated public sector many members see such help as a sign of weakness. Those same members believe they may not advance in their careers if they seek mental health treatment.
In the meantime the Army hasn’t had the best track record in dealing with suicide attempts, in one case Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, commander of the 1st Armored Division wrote in an Army blog:
“I have now come to the conclusion that suicide is an absolutely selfish act.” He also wrote, “”I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess. Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us.”
While that blog post was eventually retracted the Major General did not offer an apology. The Army’s top brass eventually called the blog post “clearly wrong.”