[Vision2020] Military Suicides Skyrocket

nickgier at adelphia.net nickgier at adelphia.net
Tue Apr 15 08:33:41 PDT 2008

Military Personnel Account for 20% of U.S. Suicides (Update2) 

By Tom Randall and Rob Waters

April 10 (Bloomberg) -- Current and former military personnel accounted for about 20 percent of U.S. suicides in 2005, according to a government study. 

About 1,821 current or former soldiers committed suicide in 16 states in 2005, the most recent year of available data, according to the report published today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost half were diagnosed with depression and a third left suicide notes. 

A rise in suicides among soldiers serving in the military has alarmed Pentagon planners and members of Congress as the war in Iraq enters its sixth year. An Army report produced last year found the rate of suicides among soldiers deployed in Iraq from 2003 to 2006 was almost 40 percent higher than the military's average suicide rate. An update of the Army's Mental Health Advisory Team report released in March found suicide rates for soldiers in 2007 remained ``above normal Army rates.'' 

``The frequency and the length of deployments are stretching people to the limit and they can't tolerate it,'' Charles Figley, a psychologist who directs the Traumatology Institute at Florida State University, said in a telephone interview today. ``They're taking risks, taking alcohol and taking their own lives because they want to extinguish their pain.'' 

While 38 percent of the soldiers who took their own lives had a diagnosed mental health condition, only 27 percent were receiving mental health care, according to the CDC report. 

30,000 Suicides 

Each year 30,000 Americans commit suicide, according to the CDC. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 25 to 34, after accidental injury, according to today's report, the first from an electronic tracking system meant to help researchers better understand and prevent violent death. The U.S. plans to expand the system to all states, the CDC said. 

Suicide accounted for about 56.1 percent of the 15,495 reported violent deaths in the 16 states. Fewer military suicide victims were receiving mental health care than non-military victims, the report said. Violent deaths in the report were caused by intentional use of force or unintended use of a gun. 

About three-quarters of all suicides recorded by the CDC took place in a house or apartment. Most victims killed themselves with a gun, followed by poisoning and strangulation, according to the study. About 62 percent had alcohol in their blood. 

Men were 3.4 times more likely than women to die violently. American Indians and blacks had the highest rates among ethnicities, the CDC said. 

A separate study last year found that combat veterans were twice as likely to take their own lives as people who hadn't been in battle. That study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, looked at 320,000 men who had served in the military from 1917 to 1994. 

To contact the reporters on this story: Tom Randall in New York at trandall6 at bloomberg.net; Rob Waters in San Francisco at rwaters5 at bloomberg.net. 

Last Updated: April 10, 2008 21:20 EDT 

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