View Full Version : Army suicides hit highest level since 1993

Apr 22nd, 2006, 10:41 AM

83 soldiers killed themselves in 2005, up from 67 the previous year


WASHINGTON - The number of U.S. Army soldiers who took their own lives increased last year to the highest total since 1993, despite a growing effort by the Army to detect and prevent suicides.

In 2005, a total of 83 soldiers committed suicide, compared with 67 in 2004, and 60 in 2003 — the year U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq. Four other deaths in 2005 are being investigated as possible suicides but have not yet been confirmed. The totals include active duty Army soldiers and deployed National Guard and Reserve troops.

“Although we are not alarmed by the slight increase, we do take suicide prevention very seriously,” said Army spokesman Col. Joseph Curtin.

“We have increased the number of combat stress teams, increased suicide prevention and training, and we are working very aggressively to change the culture so that soldiers feel comfortable coming forward with their personal problems in a culture where historically admitting mental health issues was frowned upon,” Curtin said.

Many served in Iraq
Of the confirmed suicides last year, 25 were soldiers deployed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — which amounts to 40 percent of the 64 suicides by Army soldiers in Iraq since the conflict began in March 2003.

The suicide rate for the Army has fluctuated over the past 25 years, from a high of 15.8 per 100,000 in 1985 to a low of 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001. Last year it was nearly 13 per 100,000.

The Army recorded 90 suicides in 1993, with a suicide rate of 14.2 per 100,000.

The Army rate is higher than the civilian suicide rate for 2003, which was 10.8 per 100,000, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the Army number tracked closely with the rate for civilians aged 18-34, which was 12.19 per 100,000 in 2003.

When suicides among soldiers in Iraq spiked in the summer of 2003, the Army put together a mental health assessment team that met with troops. Investigators found common threads in the circumstances of the soldiers who committed suicide — including personal financial problems, failed personal relationships and legal problems.

Army increase prevention efforts
Since then, the Army has increased the number of mental health professionals and placed combat stress teams with units. According to the Army, there are more than 230 mental health practitioners working in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared with “about a handful” when the war began, Curtin said.

Soldiers also get cards and booklets that outline suicide warning signs and how to get help.

But at least one veterans group says it’s not enough.

“These numbers should be a wake-up call on the mental health impact of this war,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “One in three soldiers will come back with post traumatic stress disorder or comparable mental health issues, or depression and severe anxiety.”

Rieckhoff, who was a platoon leader in Iraq, said solders there face increased stress because they are often deployed to the warfront several times, they are fighting urban combat and their enemy blends in with the population, making it more difficult to tell friend from foe.

“You don’t get much time to rest and with the increased insurgency, your chances of getting killed or wounded are growing,” he said. “The Army is trying harder, but they’ve got an incredibly long way to go.”

He added that while there are more psychiatrists, the soldiers are still in a war zone, “so you’re just putting your finger in the dam.”

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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I suppose it must also really suck when a soldier realizes that he/she is risking his/her ass with a mad man at the helm [Bush]; as well as being lied to for the last 3 years [Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice]; and your senior generals asking for the resignation of their leader [Rumsfeld].

Apr 22nd, 2006, 01:36 PM
Why wouldn't there be high suicides?
The government has treated veterans like shit even after making the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Many of the veterans hospitals are subpar.
1/4 of the homeless in America happen to be veterans.
That probably will go up even higher after this war is over since America really hasn't changed its ways with dealing with veterans after the Vietnam War.

Death could only be a moment away for some of these soldiers.
The stress of that alone is enough to make anyone go insane.
You add into that the future of some of these soliders looking bleak because the government will just make them another problem of the system, there's really no question of why the army suicides are higher.

Apr 22nd, 2006, 02:13 PM
“One in three soldiers will come back with post traumatic stress disorder or comparable mental health issues, or depression and severe anxiety.”

A scary thought that makes you wonder - who among them will be the next Timothy McVeigh?

Apr 22nd, 2006, 03:11 PM
Not surprised by that stat.

John A Roark
Apr 22nd, 2006, 09:01 PM
I am on the business end of the barrel in dealing with this issue--I can tell you that a large part of the problem is the obscurity of the mission, and the way it is obfuscated, since the administration nor the top brass will take a firm stand. They haven't since Clinton's first forays into the Armed Forces, when they found out that if they do, their jobs are in jeopardy.
But this isn't a surprise--they terrorized Hackworth, they terrorized Johnson, why should today's brass be any different?

Once upon a time, the mission was clear--pacify the Indians. Take San Juan Hill. Push the boches back into Germany. Stop Hitler.
Then came Korea, and things started getting murky, and it has gone downhill since. Lack of a national consensus leads to indifferent levels of support on the battlefield, and when soldiers don't have a firm base of support, they get unstable quickly.

The VA is chronically underfunded, and this is due to a direct chain of thinking that goes back to the average American who simply doesn't much give a damn until it's "the thin red line of heroes when the bullets start to whine." After that? To hell with 'em, let 'em get by as best they can.

Insecurity on the battlefield, a waffling administration, top brass of a sad caliber, and nothing to look forward to when they come home. Any wonder why soldiers kill themselves?

Apr 22nd, 2006, 09:22 PM
And it has been widely reported that employers are scared to hire them once they're back :eek: