Monday, June 11, 2012

Military Suicides Continue Troubling Increase

Despite enhanced education and antistigma programs and increased mental health screenings of members of the armed services, military health officials have been unable to stem the epidemic of suicides by members of the military. In fact, statistics released by the Pentagon late last week show that service members are taking their own lives at the rate of about one a day. This is occurring even as the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down. The Associated Press (AP) reports that in the first 155 days of 2012, 154 active-duty troops completed suicide, about 50% more than those who lost who died in combat in Afghanistan. During the same period last year, there were 130 suicides among active-duty military.

Among the causes to which the increase is attributed are posttraumatic stress disorder, exposure to combat, marital strife, financial problems, and the toll taken by multiple deployments. Also, seeking help for mental health problems is often seen as a sign of weakness and a barrier to advancement in the military. Psychiatrist Stephen Xenakis, M.D., a retired Army brigadier general, told the AP that these suicides are a "sign in general of the stress the Army has been under over the 10 years of war. We've seen before that these signs show up even more dramatically when the fighting seems to go down and the Army is returning to garrison."

To read much more about the problem of suicide among members of the military, see Psychiatric News here and here.

(image: Creatista/


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