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Suicides Outnumber Battle Deaths in the Armed Services

5 January 2013 at 7:00:39 PM


Approximately every 80 minutes, a US military veteran commits suicide in the United States; for Iraq and Afghanistan, the numbers of veterans lost to suicide now outstrips casualty lists of those killed in action. The suicide rate for active duty personnel isn’t so shockingly high, but it’s still significant; in the first half of 2012, almost one soldier a day took his or her own life. Both veterans and combat personnel have experienced a steep rise in suicide rates since 2005, which notably marked a sharp increase in the intensity of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is a public health crisis and an epidemic; veterans alone account for 20% of US suicides. Clearly, the measures the Department of Defense is using to cope with this problem are inadequate, and it’s time to think about how to approach suicide prevention for this particularly vulnerable population. While the DOD is targeting privately-owned weapons, which are a common culprit in military suicides, clearly this is only the beginning of a long and complex approach.

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