The Army says there are already as many active duty suicides in their ranks this year as all of last. That number has reached 140. This news won’t get nearly as much play as whether the terror trials should be held in New York, or whether alleged Ft. Hood Shooter Hasan is a radical Muslim terrorist. Yet it ought to concern everyone who say they honor the service of our military.
In addition to the active duty soldiers who took their own lives, another 71 committed suicide after being taken off active duty, a 25% increase over last year. Army brass are cautioning about drawing any conclusions about why more soldiers are killing themselves. However, the stress being sent to Iraq and/or Afghanistan more than once might be a good place to start.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to do one tour in either of these war zones, spend a few weeks home with your family, then find out you’re going back. Obviously this may not represent the experience of a majority of suicides, and in fact one third of them had never been deployed abroad. Yet it could play a role.
This increased suicide rate takes on added significance in the wake of the Ft. Hood Massacre. The actions of the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, have caused the military to take a second look at whether it’s missing signs of depression in its ranks. Consider that the rate of suicides per 100,000 people in the US is 11.1. Among active duty soldiers, that number is 20 per 100,000.
Something is wrong here. The folks at the top of the military food chain acknowledge this, and let’s hope they get to the bottom of it. Even as the President talks about phasing out the stop loss policy that sends soldiers back into harm’s way again and again, it hasn’t stopped yet.
Part II may have a bit to do with the current state of the US economy. Even as we say we honor the service of our military, the economic downturn has made it more difficult for them to find work after their service is done. Some may see staying in the military as an unpalatable job of last resort.
And then there’s this. Could some soldiers be so stressed out at the prospect of being sent into a combat zone that they take their own lives? Until the hysteria began, Maj. Hasan was believed to be experiencing just that kind of stress.
So you tell me. Why are so many soldiers killing themselves? And what do we need to do to stop it?