WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – American soldier suicides continue to outnumber combat-related deaths in 2012, and the trajectory for soldier suicides continues to get worse.
Statistics released by the Department of the Army show that through November potentially 303 active-duty, Reserve and National Guard soldiers committed suicide. As of Dec. 7, Stars and Stripes reports that 212 soldiers have died in combat-related deaths in Afghanistan.
The Army set a grim new record of 177 potential active-duty cases with 2012 coming to a close on Tuesday – 64 of these cases remain under investigation, 113 have been confirmed.
In June of this year, The Pentagon reported there had been at least 154 suicides among active-duty troops – a rate of nearly one each day. The number of suicides continues to increase despite numerous new training and awareness programs put into effect in the past few years.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated on Nov. 12 that the Obama administration will cease combat operations by the end of 2014, but it is still refining its timeline for withdrawing the remaining 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“So we’re dealing with broader societal issues,” Panetta said in a June speech. “Substance abuse, financial distress and relationship problems — the risk factors for suicide — also reflect problems … that will endure beyond war.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both the House and the Senate are pushing for new rules that would allow military commanders and mental health specialists to ask unstable troops if they own personal firearms, reports Stars and Stripes.
About 53 percent of those who died by suicide in the military in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, had no history of deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department. And nearly 85 percent of military members who took their lives had no direct combat history, meaning they may have been deployed but not seen action.
“As part of the Army’s team-based and holistic approach to suicide prevention and stigma reduction, Army chaplains remain committed to fostering a resilient and ready force by enhancing strength, reducing stigma and encouraging help-seeking behaviors,” the Army’s Maj. Gen. Donald L. Rutherford, Chief of Chaplains, said in the Department of Defense press release “Our soldiers, families and civilians are our most precious resource, and the chaplaincy embodies the best of our Army values when it proclaims hope, embraces community, and stands with those who feel they stand alone.”