Study: More US Soldiers Died By Suicide Than Combat

A new Pentagon study reveals that U.S. soldiers are almost nine times more likely to die from suicide than in the line of fire. A five-year study by the Defense Health Agency of active-duty soldiers from 2014 to 2019 found that 883 died by suicide, 814 deaths were caused by accidents and 96 died in combat.

According to USA Today, the suicide figures in that study were collected before the Army and the Pentagon initiated a task force to explore harmful behavior, such as alcohol and drug abuse, that contribute to suicide. However, suicide figures are still on the rise with 55 soldiers taking their lives so far in 2024.

In 2019, the suicide rate per 100,000 soldiers was 28.8 deaths. Last year, it jumped to 36.6 military deaths per 100,000. As of May 2024, the suicide rate was 31.8 per 100,000 soldiers. Although the suicide rate for Americans in general has risen 37% since 2000, the rate of suicide per 100,000 of people in the general sector was 14.1 in 2021, the last year of available data.

Suicide was especially notable in Alaska during the study where 11 soldiers died during the research period, prompting officials to spend more than $200 million to improve living conditions at Fort Wainwright. This did not solve the issue as suicide rates continued to soar, prompting the Army to send mental health professionals to that state. The suicide rates dropped significantly in 2022, from a high of 17 deaths by suicide in 2021.

The Pentagon plans more positive action to stem the tide of military suicide. Recommendations include improving access to mental health counseling and incentives for safe storage of firearms, which account for 70% of suicide deaths, says USA Today. The Pentagon also plans to hire up to 2,000 people in the next few years to address and prevent problem behaviors, like excessive drinking, that can lead to suicide and sexual assault.

According to the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, more than 90% of military suicides are male personnel who are typically younger than 35 years of age. The most common way military personnel commit suicide is by using firearms, unlike civilians. In general, those in the miliary seem to commit more lethal suicide attempts than civilians, even when using other methods, such as drug overdose.

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