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Thursday, July 4, 2024

Pentagon data reveals US soldier more likely to die by suicide than in combat

Tom Vanden Brook
USA Today
Originally posted 12 June 24

U.S. soldiers were almost nine times more likely to die by suicide than by enemy fire, according to a Pentagon study for the five-year period ending in 2019.

The study, published in May by the Defense Health Agency, found that suicide was the leading cause of death among active-duty soldiers from 2014 to 2019. There were 883 suicide deaths during that time period. Accidents were the No. 2 cause with 814 deaths. There were 96 combat deaths.

The suicide figures from 2019 predate some Army and Pentagon initiatives to combat suicide, including a workforce that addresses harmful behaviors like alcohol abuse that can contribute to deaths by suicide. In addition, combat deaths declined from 31 in 2014 to 16 in 2019 as deployments to war zones in the Middle East and Afghanistan decreased.

Suicide, meanwhile, has increased among active-duty soldiers, according to figures obtained by USA TODAY. So far in 2024, 55 soldiers have died by suicide.

Army officials, in an interview with USA TODAY, pointed to increasing rates of suicide in U.S. society as whole that are reflected in their ranks. They also talked about new tactics they're using to reduce suicide.

Here are some comments:

A recent Pentagon study revealed a shocking truth: active-duty US soldiers are far more likely to die by suicide than in combat. This data exposes a hidden mental health crisis within the military community.

The stresses of combat and the challenges of reintegration into civilian life can have a devastating impact. To address this, we need a cultural shift. Seeking help for mental health struggles must be seen as a sign of strength, not weakness.

The solution requires a multi-pronged approach. We need to prioritize readily available mental health services, address substance abuse issues, and strengthen social support networks within the military.  Most importantly, we need to ensure soldiers are equipped to handle the psychological challenges they face, both during and after service.

Let's not forget - suicide is preventable. By raising awareness, reducing stigma, and providing effective resources, we can support our soldiers and ensure they get the help they deserve.