Military Suicides Jump By Alarming 15% — Pentagon Downplays Pandemic’s Impact
By Tyler Durden
It’s been no secret that two decades of the largely failed ‘war on terror’ started under the Bush administration has led to increased suicides and rates of depression among US military veterans. This trend is likely also to only continue in the wake of the horrific Afghan evacuation debacle and final pullout from August. “What was it all for?” – many veterans have asked, no doubt compounding mental health problems for many who have also returned from multiple deployments in places like Iraq.
New data released by the defense department Thursday reveals military suicides have increased by a hugely alarming 15% from last year. Army and Marine Corps leadership, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is calling it “troubling”, the Associated Press reports, prompting top brass to call for “action” and greater intervention.
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Most deaths among the major branches occurred in the Army and Marine Corps, with 580 suicides from both, a number up from 504 the year before. Navy suicides actually barely dropped from 81 to 79, the total Air Force suicides saw no change, at 109 deaths.
AP details of the data that “Of those, the number of suicides by Army National Guard troops jumped by about 35%, from 76 in 2019 to 103 last year, and the active duty Army saw a nearly 20% rise.” And further, “Marine Corps suicides went up by more than 30%, from 47 to 62; while the Marine Corps Reserves went from nine deaths to 10.”
Defense Secretary Austin reacted to the new figures by saying, “Suicide rates among our service members and military families are still too high, and the trends are not going in the right direction.”
Often on-job stress is described as a potential contributing factor to troop suicides, but perhaps more often the strains on marriages due to military life, or financial and other personal issues. Naturally the question of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is being examined; however, some military commanders have downplayed this:
Army Maj. Gen. Clement Coward, acting executive director for the Force Resiliency office, said the department did not see a “statistical change in suicide rates” to indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact.
He argued that for the pandemic to have been a significant or observable cause in the rise since last year, there’d have to be greater statistical increase per 100,000 service members.
But given percentage-wise the military numbers generally track with civilian rates across the states, deaths by suicide in the armed forces may just be a reflection of rates in the American population at large. And like the broader US population data reveals, “By far, the most common method of suicide was a gun, followed by hanging or asphyxiation.”
Top image: US Air Force photo illustration