Pentagon numbers obtained Monday by The Associated Press show U.S. military suicides hit a record number of 349 last year, which far exceeded American combat deaths in Afghanistan. Some experts are predicting the dark trend will grow worse in the coming year.
After more than a decade of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, the strains on military personnel are coming at the ultimate price. There are simply not enough resources to go around for all who need them. There currently is no hard knowledge of why so many active personnel take their own lives.
In 2006 military suicides began to increase, as the two wars dragged on. The Army has suffered the highest number of suicides last year with 182, followed by the Navy with 60, the Air Force with 59 and the Marines with 48. While suicide prevention has become a priority of the Pentagon the problem persists.
David Rudd, a military suicide researcher and dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Utah, said he sees two main categories of troops who are committing suicide at an accelerating pace: Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress or substance abuse, and those who have not gone to war but face troubled personal relationships, money problems or legal woes.
The military suicide rate remains below that of non-military member which for males aged 17-60 was 25 per 100,000 in 2010, compared to the military's rate in 2012 of 17.5 per 100,000.
"One of the things we learned during our careers," they wrote in The Washington Post last month, "is that stress, guns and alcohol constitute a dangerous mixture. In the wrong proportions, they tend to blow out the lamp of the mind and cause irrational acts," commented retired Army generals Peter W. Chiarelli and Dennis J. Reimer.
Army Specialist, Christopher Nguyen, 29, killed himself last August at his residence. His sister Shawna Nguyen, commented "He was practically begging for help and nothing was done," she said in an interview.
Nguyen has served three deployments and according to his sister had been diagnosed with an ‘adjustment disorder’ which is a problem of coping with the return home and to ‘normal’ life.
The Veterans Crisis Line is available for Veterans and their families who need help. The toll-free number is 1-800-273-8255. Confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.