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America’s Army Presses the Self-Destruct Button

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More members of the US military have died from suicide in just the second quarter of this year than of the coronavirus over the course of the pandemic, according to a disturbing new Pentagon report.

Between the beginning of April and the end of June 2021, there were 139 total military suicides, 99 in active service, 14 among reservists, and 26 in the National Guard, says the latest report from the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO).

The statistics released show a 46% surge in suicides among the US Army active-duty forces over the same span of time in 2020. The new figures also mean that suicides in just that calendar quarter amount to more than double the official death toll from Covid-19 in the armed forces, which the Pentagon has put at 58 so far.

The Defense Department’s 2020 annual report on military suicides, published at the end of September, showed 580 such deaths over the course of 2020, corrected to 581 in the latest quarterly, up from 505 total the year before. 

While the rate of suicides among reservists and the National Guard has stayed statistically flat since 2016, the active duty force saw a significant increase, said Dr Karin Orvis, who took over as chief of DSPO in 2019. The rate of suicides in active service was 28.7 per 100,000 in 2020, the highest since detailed records started being kept in 2008, when it was 16.9 per 100,000.

Enlisted men under the age of 30 were at highest risk, making up 42 percent of the total military population in 2020, but accounting for 63 percent of military suicides that year, Orvis said. The Army’s suicide rate of 36.4 per 100,000 was nearly double that of the Navy’s 19.3.

The second-quarter figures from 2021 predate the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which began in August. Any suicides related to the Kabul airlift and the end of that 20-year conflict would be tallied in the next quarterly report.

The forever wars that the US launched after 9/11 led to a surge in military suicides, a new study claims, with traumatized soldiers taking their own lives as they are repeatedly deployed in conflicts that have no public support.

A new report by Brown University’s Costs of War Project provides a new insight into what many dubbed an epidemic of suicides among the US military. Based on data from the DoD, the VA and secondary sources, the study found that at least four times as many military lives were lost to suicide than to combat in wars launched since the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Since President George W. Bush launched his global War on Terror in 2001, 7,057 service members have been killed in military operations.

Over the same period, an estimated 5,116 active-duty personnel died by suicide. Between 2011 and 2020, 1,193 National Guard service members and 1,607 Reserve component service members also took their own lives. The suicide death toll among veterans of those wars was conservatively estimated at 22,261. The numbers total 30,177, more than four times higher than the combat deaths.

The estimated number of suicides is a minimum, the report stressed, as there was no statistical data available for Reserve and National Guard deaths prior to 2011. In addition, the statistics do not necessarily include every suicide, since in some cases attribution may be difficult. Overdose deaths, weapon misfires or single-vehicle crashes may not be conclusively linked to suicidal behavior.

Even so, the recorded suicide rates among both active-duty service members and veterans have surged and significantly surpass those in the general population, which itself has been increasing in the US, the study said.

This goes against historical trends. Active-duty personnel usually have lower suicide rates than the general public and these went even lower during wartime in every US conflict before Vietnam. More recent military suicide deaths continued to climb even after combat deaths sharply decreased after 2007. Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

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