Friday, February 6, 2009

Military Suicides Jump Again

“In January, we lost more soldiers to suicide than to Al Qaeda.”

So says Paul Rieckhoff, executive director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. As odd as that sounds, the news keeps getting worse regarding the military and suicide. The Army is reporting the number of suicides amongst soldiers soared to 24 for the first month of 2009, making the number to die by their own hand greater than the total lost in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq in January.

The number of soldiers who committed suicide in January could reach 24, a count that would be the highest monthly total since the Army began tabulating suicides in 1980.

The latest Army figures, released Thursday, show seven confirmed suicides last month, with another 17 deaths still being investigated. The Army has said the vast majority of suspicious deaths typically turn out to be suicide.

If confirmed, the suicide count for last month would exceed those killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan during the same period. In January 2008, five soldiers committed suicide.

At least 128 soldiers killed themselves last year. The suicide count, which includes soldiers in the Army Reserve and the National Guard, is expected to grow; 15 deaths are still being investigated. The Army announced plans last week to increase its efforts to prevent suicides and to encourage soldiers to seek help for mental health problems.

The possibility of 24 suicides in January fueled the concerns of veterans’ advocates who say the Army has failed for years to meet the mental health needs of troops returning home from war.
Something this blog concurs with and has been arguing since at least 2007. Throw in the stigma associated with seeking mental health services, and the general downturn in the economy, one has to really hope things don't get worse.

It also raises the question: did the VA (and defacto, American society) learn nothing from Vietnam and the treatment of vets back then?

No comments: