U.S. Army suicide rate soars

Reuters

WASHINGTON ó As many as 121 U.S. soldiers likely committed suicide in 2007, a record number if confirmed, according to Army statistics released on Thursday.

The Army reported 89 suicides and 32 suspected cases among active-duty soldiers in 2007. If the 32 cases are confirmed, the 121 suicides would be a nearly 20 per cent increase over 2006, when 102 soldiers committed suicide.

Army officials said relationship problems were the main cause of suicides among soldiers, but those problems were increasing due to repeated long deployments as the force is strained by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I think that it is a marker of the stress on the force," Army psychiatrist Col. Elspeth Ritchie said.

"Families are getting tired," Col. Ritchie told a news conference at the Pentagon. "Therefore, sometimes they're more irritable, sometimes they don't take care of each other the way they should, are not as nurturing as they should be."

The number of suicides has risen in four of the past five years for which complete data is available and the 2006 figure was the highest since 1991.

The number of soldiers attempting suicide or inflicting injuries on themselves has also jumped in recent years.

That figure rose from about 350 in 2002 to around 2,100 in 2007, although Col. Ritchie said the large jump partly reflects better recordkeeping.

She said the Army was increasing its efforts to help soldiers cope with relationship problems, identify possible suicidal tendencies in their comrades and seek help if they were having suicidal thoughts.

"We're trying to decrease stigma, but that is not an easy thing to do at all," Col. Ritchie said. "We have been perturbed by the rise, despite all of our efforts."

In 2006, however, the Army rate rose to 17.5 per 100,000 -- the highest since the Army began tracking the rate in 1980.

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  1. Ottawa Mens Centre.com, from Ottawa, Canada wrote: The UNTOLD STORY is that Canadian soldiers and US soldiers are being asked to return not just to 2nd tours, but 3rd and 4th tours of duty. Thatís Canadian soldiers being asked to do 4 tours of duty in Afghanistan AND the soldiers being asked to do so are at the highest risk of becoming a fatality by nature of their specific mission tasks. I'll remain silent on what who where and why. The fact is, the suicide and "problem" rate increases exponentially with the number of missions and the risk of death faced. The UNTOLD story continues in that as the number of tours increase so does the risk of relationship breakdown. Wives, girlfriends say, "I've had enough" , now admittedly many of those relationships ending due to continued repeated deployments are relationships that probably were not going to last but, why should those men willing to die for their country have to get the "dear John" letter in the form of a divorce application by a woman who has already fled with the kids to live with a boyfriend they met on the internet in another location where he is never going to have a meaningful relationship with his children. Back on the very quiet military base, these guys frequently put up with an abusive wife because they did not want to loose the relationship with their children. They went on repeated tours sometimes to have a holiday from the endless abuse by a selfish self centered mentally ill violent woman with a personality disorder. As a result of avoiding dealing with a real problem the vacation from the nightmare ends when they wake up in fright with a nightmare beyond their imagination and beyond their ability to understand or deal with. That is only the start of their nightmare in family court that drives many men into a downward spiral of anxiety & depression. The associated depression from a sense of powerlessness drives many to seeking a military solution to a personal problem. They need our support and respect. www.OttawaMensCentre.com