U.S. Military Suicides Remain High for 7th Year

© AP Photo/Charles Dharapak In this March 27, 2014 file photo, with the Capitol in the background, Army veteran David Dickerson of Oklahoma City, Okla., joins others to place 1,892 flags representing veteran and service members who have died…
© AP Photo/Charles Dharapak In this March 27, 2014 file photo, with the Capitol in the background, Army veteran David Dickerson of Oklahoma City, Okla., joins others to place 1,892 flags representing veteran and service members who have died…

The Pentagon reported Friday that 265 active-duty service members killed themselves last year, continuing a trend of unusually high suicide rates that have plagued the U.S. military for at least seven years.

The numbers of suicides among troops was 145 in 2001 and began a steady increase until more than doubling to 321 in 2012, the worst year in recent history for service members killing themselves.

The suicide rate for the Army that year was nearly 30 suicides per 100,000 soldiers, well above the national rate of 12.5 per 100,000 for 2012.

Military suicides dropped 20% the year after that, and then held roughly steady at numbers significantly higher than during the early 2000s. The 265 suicides last year compares with 273 in 2014 and 254 in 2013. By contrast, from 2001 through 2007, suicides never exceeded 197.

“Suicide prevention remains a top priority, and the Department will continue its efforts to reduce deaths by suicide among its service members,” said Marine Lt. Col. Hermes Gabrielle, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “Reducing suicide risk entails creating a climate that encourages service members to seek help, reducing access to lethal means and broadening communication and awareness to Service members and their families.”

Among efforts by the military to combat suicide was a $5 million, long-term study by the Army that eventually produced algorithms for predicting what group of soldiers is most likely to commit suicide. The Department of Veterans Affairs has embraced the science and will soon launch a pilot program for helping its therapists concentrate efforts on those veterans with strong self-destructive tendencies.

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Source: USA Today | Gregg Zoroya