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U.S. Army suicide rate may hit new high

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The U.S. Army is on track to break last year's all-time record for suicides, a pace that would top the civilian suicide rate for the first time since the Vietnam war, army officials said Thursday.

The officials said 93 soldiers have taken their own lives so far this year, approaching last year's 115 suicides, the most ever on record in a single year for the army.

"With four months left, we're probably going to surpass 115," said Colonel Eddie Stephens, the army's deputy director of human resources policy.

At the current pace, the army will exceed the civilian population rate of 19.5 per 100,000 in 2005, the latest data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control, the officials said. The civilian rate is adjusted to reflect the army's youthful demographics.

The officials said the last time the army's suicide rates exceeded the civilian rate was in the late 1960s into the early 1970s when the United States was at war in Vietnam.

The triggers for suicide among soldiers have tended to be marital or other relationship issues, as well as financial or legal problems, but officials acknowledged that the high rates also were a sign of an army under stress.

"Certainly the army at large having been the primary force in the global war on terrorism since 2001 is under a lot of stress," said Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum, assistant surgeon general of the army.

"The things that are stressers in the army are things that are stressers anywhere -- new children, marriages, divorces, deaths, moving," she said.

But she said that the high pace of operations and of deployments and other personnel movements meant there was "the perception and the reality sometimes that there just isn't time" to deal with these problems.

The steady rise in the army suicide rate from 12.4 per 100,000 in 2003 has come despite intensifying army efforts to increase awareness of the problem within the ranks and to reduce the stigma of seeking help for mental health problems.

Cornum said the army has added more mental health providers, suicide prevention training programs at all levels of the army, and "resilience training" for newly inducted soldiers.

But the army officials appeared at a loss over what more could be done to turn the trend around.

"There is no one in the world that has the solution to preventing suicides. There is no empirical evidence that shows that any of these things work," said Colonel Carl Castro, a director of military medicine operations.

"It's going to really require a cultural change in which our focus is on mental strength and fitness," he said.

© Wire reports

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

32 Comments
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Wow, I hope the measures designed to arrest this alarming trend start to take effect but soon.

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This is the terrible price you pay for going to war with the Army you have and not the Army you want.

Taka

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Very well put, Taka!

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I heard a lot about OORAAH and enlistment and serving your country, but I heard little about taking care of the troops when they come home. < :-)

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At the current pace, the army will exceed the civilian population rate of 19.5 per 100,000 in 2005,

I'd say they're doing pretty well if they can keep it under the civilian rate.

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Contrast the general plotting maneuvers with the soldier in the trench. How worthy of life does each feel? How respected/demeaned by the world? Or are they being hashished to die as assassins?

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How "un-American" of them. Damn lefty socialist defeatists...

No chance Bush will ever recognise the person responsible for their fractured mental states...when he looks in a mirror

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No chance Bush will ever recognise the person responsible for their fractured mental states...when he looks in a mirror

Right on that one, old top. Islam's founder died over a thousand years ago.

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But the army officials appeared at a loss over what more could be done to turn the trend around.

Well, how about ending a war that never should have been started in the first place?

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Thanks Yabits, For reasons I'd rather not get into here, I've been spending a lot of time reading up on Army medicine. The conclusion I am rapidly coming to is that many of the issues that plagued Walter Reed were administrative in nature. Someone unaware of the conditions of the wing at Walter Reed saw a need for more housing for wounded Soldiers and saw (on paper) an empty building. Decisions were made and orders followed, which in turn, created the mess we saw there. I saw something very similar to what the Army is experiencing now in the Navy, after 9-11, here in Yokosuka. Every command had to give up a lot of personnel in order to augment the security forces. So...100% of the original mission still had to be done, plus, additional security measures were implemented everywhere, adding to the workload that had to be done...with significantly reduced manning. So...commands obviously didn't send their best and brightest, as they needed those people to handle in-house issues. Which created a mess with the auxillary security force. The mess itself, plus the straightening out of the mess created a further burden on the commands, and had a HUGE impact on morale.

Every one of these steps amounted to an incremental increase in stress.

The Army is going through the same thing. They had a mission to take care of their Soldiers (see mods, I'm back on-topic). That was part of their mission. Their medical commands had to take care of their wounded Soldiers, as well as keeping them operational fit for duty. That is 100% of the Army medical communities mission.

Then...after we invaded Iraq, they lost some of their manning to combat units, but zero of their original mission. Then, the problem was further compounded when, with less manning, they had to absorb the extra customers they were receiving, in the form of wounded Soldiers. Because we went to war ill prepared, the Army medical community, in my opinion, was overwhelmed. Sadly, there are no do-overs, no mulligans and no, "can you give us a few minutes to get our poop in a group."

Soldiers were/are slipping through cracks due to commands with reduced staffing being asked to deal with extra responsibilities on top of their normal responsibilities.

"Work smarter - not harder" can only take you so far.

I believe the Army knows this, but, as good Soldiers, they are not laying the blame where it should be, which is the commander-in-chief and donald rumsfeld.

They are doing their best to only let as few as possible slip through the cracks.

For the Soldiers who slip through the cracks, they feel they were betrayed by a govt. that promised to take care of them.

For the Soldiers receiving care, they are worried and hoping they won't be next.

For the Soldier providing the care, they are facing an impossible task and haunted by every failure.

Again, all things that add stress and cause depression.

And then there are the guys actually IN combat who hear things like, "we'll stay for 100 years" if need be and who are asked to do multiple combat tours and who may not even be allowed to leave the Army at the conclusion of their contract.

There comes a point where those Service members begin to care less and less about the mission and more and more about surviving it. Even though we were never in a combat situation, aside from firing missiles, I even saw that on the ship I was on at the on-set of the war.

I think it's truly sad that suicide rates are climbing and it tears me up to see good Soldiers take their own lives, but I think the problem is as I explained. At this point, we can only hope that the govt. has had enough time to play catch-up and fix a lot of the problems I addressed. War will always be war, but when that warrior leaves the battle field, he/she should be able to rest easy knowing that the promises made to them, regarding their after care, will be kept.

Taka

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DenshaDeGO.

That won't work as the article states many of the suicides are related to problems back home. Relationships breaking down, divorces, job-related, etc.

Read it often a soldier gets back home, wife and kids are gone and he is divorced now or similar. Those types of problems.

Stopping the war will only benefit the soldiers that haven't been to the front yet. The suicides even if the war stops now will be going on for some time.

Apart from improving services/benefits for soldiers and their families I don't think there is much that can be done. But again those changes will be for the future soldiers not the current bunch.

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mar4eO - I suppose the well-documented neglect by their government after they come back from Iraq and Afghanistan has nothing to do with it then?

Stop defending failure - if you are a true "patriot" you'd stick up for the people in your armed forces. Instead you take your cue from the discredited failure in the White House who lied to put them in harms way.

Sad

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I'd say they're doing pretty well if they can keep it under the civilian rate.

I would not make that comparison. These are young men who are examined for physical and mental health going in. It makes no sense to compare them to the whole civilian population , who never got any weeding.

That won't work as the article states many of the suicides are related to problems back home. Relationships breaking down, divorces, job-related, etc.

But the majority of those problems probably would not have occurred if not for the unnecessary war, soldiered not by a draft, but by many who got pulled out of civilian life after doing their tour and shoved right back into the military. Also, many were about to finish but then got their tour extended. How many wives and girlfriends just could not wait any longer? How many soldiers could not wait any longer?

Then consider the cutbacks of the Bush and friends into VA etc.

Its too bad overseas military votes will be tossed into the incinerator without ever being counted.

--Cirroc

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Sad statistic. I can only imagine how hard and demoralizing it must be for troops and their families to be deployed year in and year out in stressful conditions, in never ending wars where progress is measured in millimeters. To claim PTSD and the like is still a black mark on a troops record as well, and causes others to treat them like lepers. So really the only option for some is to end it all.

No doubt the rah rah pro war crowd will minimize this statistic, claim everything is fine and dandy. No doubt that if they were the ones having to deploy year in and year out, or their kids, they wouldn't have this same level of chest pounding patriotic enthusiasm.

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CavemanLawyer.

I agree, but it is too late now to say "what if ..". Like I said we can only improve for the future soldiers.

Side-note: For the "What if crowd":

http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=hrnLkd3UFo8

http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4G2iKDzHrs

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I agree, but it is too late now to say "what if ..". Like I said we can only improve for the future soldiers.

I would think that measures to avoid giving a lying CinC the power to initiate war, measures to prevent unfair terms of service for our servicemen by guaranteeing a draft when it gets this hard on them, and reinstating financial and other support for our servicemen for when they get back home would all be products of looking back that will help our future.

--Cirroc

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I suppose the well-documented neglect by their government after they come back from Iraq and Afghanistan has nothing to do with it then?

Well-documented by whom?

You must be referring to sources other than this article:

"The triggers for suicide among soldiers have tended to be marital or other relationship issues, as well as financial or legal problems, but officials acknowledged that the high rates also were a sign of an army under stress."

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if you are a true "patriot" you'd stick up for the people in your armed forces

Ok front...please tell us the suicide rate of the armed services in your own country. And please tell us about the care they receive after they come home from combat in places like Afghanistan.

Go for it, Mr. Patriot.

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marforio,

It's documented in Army Times for one.

But...they're probably "leftie."

Taka

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It's documented in Army Times for one.

But...they're probably "leftie."

Good. Documentation always helps.

Before the Walter Reed 'scandal' broke, the NY Times' own economist of (liberal) renown, Mr Paul Krugman, repeatedly tried to make the case that our VA hospitals were a model of how socialized medicine could work in America.

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marforio,

"Documentation always helps."

Unfortunately, we have none (documentation) indicating you have any concern for the Soldiers other than as props for your anti-liberal rants.

Support the troops....' mission.

you patriot, you.

Taka

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Taka313 - This is the terrible price you pay for going to war with the Army you have, and not with the Army you want."

But you didn't want ANY army to liberate Iraq.

"The last time the army's suicide rate exceeded the civilian rate was in the late 1960's"

Gosh, the civilians should have been emulating the Army's lifestyle all these years.

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sarge,

condi rice, herself, went on the attack saying that no one said Iraq was an "imminent threat" to America. We attacked anyway, giving us a two-front war to fight, making logistics support more difficult, and putting us in a situation where we had more troops fighting than we had armored vehicles to support them.

For a war against a country that was not an imminent threat. It's wonderful that saddam is gone. Even better that his sons won't take over the country, I'm not denying that, but because of the timing, Soldiers unnecessarily died due to insufficient logistics support in the form of armored vehicles. Also, by fighting a two-front war, the Army's medical commands and the VA could not keep up with the overflow of patients. The overflow being the part that pesky conveniently glosses over in his anti-liberal rant. Had the U.S. waited until the Afghanistan situation was taken care of and then went into Iraq, many of these problems wouldn't have occurred.

Taka

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Taka313 : "we had more troops fighting than we had armored vehicles to supporr them."

It would have been even worse if Rumsfeld had listened to General Shinseki then, wouldn't it? He was talking about deploying "several hundred thousand troops."

War is hell. I wish to hell there weren't any.

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Not quite Sarge. How could it have been 'worse' deploying the proper numbers of troops to start with to stabilize and reconstruct post war Iraq? Even considering the fact that Bush and his administration treated post war Iraq and its myriad of problems like a joke, there simply was not enough manpower to stabilize and undo the damage done early on post invasion. And all these politicos claiming credit for le sourge, how can one wax lyrical about how effective 'le sourge' was when it's the exact same principle Shinseki proposed? And when you have people like General Abazaid now agreeing that plenty more coalition forces were need post occupation Iraq, that is pretty damning that things would have been BETTER if numbers close to what Shinseki proposed were done.

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rjd jr - AsTaka313 pointed out, we had more troops fighting than we had armored vehicles to support them, and we had only about 130,000 troops there. If we had deployed "hundreds of thousands of troops" there would have been many more suicides among them, no?

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Superlib - patriotism, the last refuge of the scoundrel, I think it was once called, with good reason.

Funnily enough we are talking about the US Army here, not the British, French, Japanese, Canadian or any other army. The U.S. Army, whose casualties are being neglected. Happy about that?

Well, of course you are - as long as they go and get turned into hamburgers to prove how 'tough' the US is and to make YOU proud, who cares, eh? Some patriot you are, defending policies that are harmful to you country.

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It doesn't work that way Sarge. The issue of inadequate armoured vehicles happened as the insurgency started to gain momentum with explosive attacks. Had Bush and company taken post occupation seriously, there would have been no need for additional armoured vehicles, troops would have been engaging in police action and other forms of rebuilding the country (one of the earliest documentaries about the Iraq War shows troops riding in open, unarmoured vehicles throughout the city). Again, even the likes of General Abizaid have stated that more troops would have been better. The majority of troops in Iraq are combat support and support, do they need armoured vehicles also when they spend most of their time on base?

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There are several kinds of patriotism.

Patriotism for country. Patriotism of self. Patriotism of the military. Patriotism of.... the list can go on.

But I'm just concerned with the warriors, that we rely on are receiving the best care available, no matter who president. < :-)

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I am with adaydream.

The soldiers should get the adequate/care they need as should their families.

Going back to WWII the german army was well fed during peace-times but during war-times they suffered/starved and moral, etc hit the bottom. This is one of the reason why they failed in the long run. In short look after your soldiers pre/during/post wars.

Nothing to do with patriotism or jingoism(as shown often on JT).

Same as a corporation if you want your workers to perform the need to have access to the tools/materials/resources to do so.

Right now the Vet situation is bad, I speak to many and get their stories. Guys being fired because they sustained a major injury, etc.

If I as a non-american can get them so can US Citizens. Most of the vets are hurting badly right now.

Also getting lots of updates from people in-country. This is not from media outlets from the guys and their family direct.

Just my view.

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sarge, Good job completely missing the whole part about waiting until we had our situation in Afghanistan stabilized before invading Iraq. Wow. Really. It's almost like you TRY not to think.

Taka

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Superlib - patriotism, the last refuge of the scoundrel, I think it was once called, with good reason.

Yes, by Samuel Johnson.

But that was before America came into being...

Europeon notions of patria are irrelevant in the New World.

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