Suicide is surging as a cause of death among American military service people, with nearly one suicide a day in the first half of this year, according to Pentagon statistics reported by the Associated Press. That’s more than the number of soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan in the same time period. Suicide rates for members of the military used to be lower than the general public, but the number has been rising since the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Jackie Garrick, the director of the Pentagon’s newly established Defense Suicide Prevention Office, said in an interview with The Huffington Post that this year’s suicide numbers are “troubling.”
“We are very concerned at this point that we are seeing a high number of suicides at a point in time where we were expecting to see a lower number of suicides,” she said, adding that the weak U.S. economy may be confounding preventive efforts even as the pace of military deployments eases.
Author and veteran Karl Marlantes, who will appear in conversation with Bill on Moyers & Company this weekend, blames the repeated tours of duty in today’s wars. During the Vietnam War, service was limited to about a year, he says “so that they know when it’s over.” Today, members of our all-volunteer army are serving longer than almost any time in our nation’s history.
In the lead up to our interview with Marlantes, we’ll be featuring a chart of the day related to the military and veterans. Check back here for more.