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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Army Suicides Soar Past 2008's Pace ("This is a Suicide Epidemic")

The day after the shooting at a combat stress clinic in Iraq, new data released to Salon shows soldiers committing suicide at a record-setting pace. Is combat stress the reason?
By Mark Benjamin
May. 12, 2009
The Army is on a pace this year to shatter the record suicide rate set among soldiers in 2008, according to data released by the Army to Salon. And the numbers, obtained a day after a patient at a combat stress clinic in Iraq killed five, suggest that combat stress may be contributing to the spike in suicides. During the first four months of 2009, 91 soldiers committed suicide, including suspected suicides still under investigation. During all of last year, 140 Army soldiers committed suicide, resulting in the highest rate on record. If Army suicides continue at the rate recorded from Jan. 1 to April 30, more than 270 soldiers will be dead by their own hands at the end of this year. The large majority of suicides are among enlisted soldiers, privates, specialists and sergeants.
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Previous reporting by Salon has established the connection between combat stress and suicide. According to the new data, among the active-duty troops who have committed suicide so far in 2009, 48 committed suicide after or during a deployment, while only 16 killed themselves without having gone to war. Two of the active-duty soldiers who killed themselves did so after deploying to war four times. Among National Guard and Army Reserve troops, 11 died during or after deployments while 16 killed themselves having never deployed. The figures for the National Guard and Army Reserve include an unexplained bubble of seven suicides among never-deployed troops that occurred in February.
The Army data does not show whether those Guard troops killed themselves after receiving an alert that they would be deployed. Paul Sullivan, executive director of the advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense, says his organization is investigating what appears to be a pattern of suicides following notices to deploy or redeploy.
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The new suicide data obtained by Salon alarmed some veterans' advocates. "There is still a suicide epidemic," worried Sullivan of Veterans for Common Sense. "The Department of Defense failed our soldiers by not conducting pre- and post-deployment medical exams -- not paper screenings -- as required by law." LinkHere


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