Suicides in the U.S. military surged to a record high last year as 349 soldiers—far more than were killed in active combat—took their own lives.
More than half of the suicides came from the Army, 182 in total, while 48 came from the Marine Corps, 59 from the Air Force and 60 from the Navy. The figures are provisional, pending the completion of full reports on each case later in the year. This is the third time in four years that the number of military suicides surpassed the number of combat deaths.
Here’s what The Associated Press reported that a Pentagon inquiry found about military suicides in 2011:
Each year the Pentagon performs an in-depth study of the circumstances of each suicide. The most recent year for which that analysis is available is 2011, and among the findings was that those who took their own lives tended to be white men under the age of 25, in the junior enlisted ranks, with less than a college education.
The analysis of 2011’s 301 military suicides also found that the suicide rate for divorced service members was 55 percent higher than for those who were married. It determined that 60 percent of military suicides were committed with the use of firearms - and in most cases the guns were personal weapons, not military-issued.
Other studies into the causes of the increase in suicides are ongoing.
In 2009, the Army began developing required surveys for all new and current soldiers. The goal of the survey was to determine causes of the uptick in military suicides, and to learn how best to prevent suicides. The panel that developed the survey also launched the largest study of its kind: a $50 million, five-year study run by Army and the National Institutes of Mental Health. Professors from Harvard, the University of Michigan, and Columbia also sat on the panel of experts. A whole host of other studies—both private and backed by the government—are examining causes and prevention for military suicides. For instance, late last year, the Department of Defense announced a three-year, $10 million study, conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina, that tests whether fatty acids in fish oils can help cure the anxiety suffered by combat veterans, thus hopefully reducing the rising suicide rate.
The Department of Defense’s toll-free military crisis number is 800-273-8255.