Military Suicide Report Shows Majority Non-Combat Related

suicide-preventionThe 2011 Department of Defense report found that 53 percent of the service members who died by suicide that year had no history of deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.

The Stresses of War

Reporter Sarah Childress looks at the complex issues behind suicide in the military in her story “Why Soldiers Keep Losing to Suicide” for PBS’s Frontline.

The military’s suicide problem seems to be rooted partly in the strain of war. The U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan for 11 years, most of them while also battling a protracted insurgency in Iraq. Deployments for many service members were extended, sometimes up to 15 months.

The National Center of Veterans’ Studies at the University of Utah is conducting a three year study on the link between military stress and suicide.

Military Action on Suicide

In addition to spending$50 million to study military mental health, Childress reports the Military is spending $17 million to find solutions unique to the military.

In the meantime, it has increased the number of behavioral health care providers by 35 percent over the past three years, both in primary care settings and embedded in units deployed to the front lines. The goal: to make sure every service member is screened for depression or suicidal thoughts, even when they’re just getting routine physical check-ups. The military has also expanded its crisis hotline to Europe, and plans to open one in Japan soon. (The number is 1-800-273-8255.)

Battling the Stigma of Suicide

The military culture rewards of resilience and has been less tolerant of mental health issues and suicide reports Childress:

… in May, a blunt blog post by Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, the commander of Fort Bliss, Texas, summed up the sentiment that some victims’ advocates say remains pervasive in the military.

“I have now come to the conclusion that suicide is an absolutely selfish act,” Pittard wrote, in comments that have since been scrubbed from the website. “I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess. Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us.”

The stigma is even harder on those who have not deployed because of guilt feelings so they don’t seek help for depression or other mental health issues.

You can read the full story “Why Soldiers Keep Losing to Suicide” HERE.

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