At least 99
American soldiers killed themselves last year, the US army's
highest suicide rate in 26 years, according to a new report.
The rate of 17.3 suicides per 100,000 soldiers compares with
12.8 in 2005, officials said.
Twenty-eight of the soldiers who took their own life last
year did so while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The army listed failed relationships, legal and financial
issues and work stress as factors behind the suicides.
Two soldiers' deaths from last year are still being
investigated. If confirmed as suicide, the figure for 2006 will
climb to 101.
The highest number recorded was 102 in 1991, the year of the
Gulf War - but more soldiers were on active duty then, meaning
the rate per 100,000 soldiers was lower than in 2006.
So far this year, 44 soldiers have taken their own lives, 17
of them while deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Mental health care
The report said there was "limited evidence" to support the
suspicion that repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan were
putting more servicemen and women at risk of suicide.
Its authors found a significant relationship between suicide
attempts and the length of time soldiers spent in Iraq,
Afghanistan or in nearby countries in operations supporting
A study published in March this year found a quarter of US
veterans treated at veterans' health centres after returning
from Iraq and Afghanistan suffered mental health problems.
The most frequent diagnosis was post-traumatic stress
disorder, but anxiety, depression and substance-use also counted
as mental health problems.
Other studies have found that the US military's mental health
care resources have not been adequate for the large numbers of
servicemen and women needing help as the wars in Iraq and
The US army has revised training programmes and is doing more
to prevent suicides, the Associated Press news agency says.
It has also recruited more psychiatrists and other mental
health professionals and is encouraging soldiers to recognise
their own problems and seek help without fear of stigma.