By Debbie Gregory.
Earlier this month, the Department of Defense (DOD) disclosed that military suicides are down more than 22% from this time last year. Through the end of October, 2013, the suicide toll stood at 245. The number of suicides tallied between January and October 2012 was 316.
For all of 2012, the military suffered the loss of 349 of its members through suicide, averaging 1 person every 25 hours, for the entire year. In 2012, there were 182 suicides by members of the Army, 60 in the Navy, 59 Air Force and 48 Marines (the US Coast Guard operates under the Department of Homeland Security, not the DOD). Suicide took more service members’ lives in 2012 than the war in Afghanistan did during the same period, where there were 295 US Service members killed last year.
For many years, the DOD has implemented a variety of plans, resources and programs designed to help service members and their family members who might be experiencing suicidal thoughts. These include crisis and prevention hotlines/websites, command trainings for prevention and detection, and raising awareness throughout the entire military Community. One of the main focuses by the DOD has been to remove the stigma attached to seeking help.
The department acknowledges that it still doesn’t always know, with absolute certainty, why individual service members take their own lives. Many of the military suicides in recent years have been committed by members who never served in or near combat. For this reason, the end of fighting in Iraq and slated end in Afghanistan haven’t been credited for the decrease.
The drop in the amount of suicides by our service members is a welcome improvement. The brave men and women who serve their country deserve so much more than feeling so hopeless, they would take their own lives. A considerable drop of more than 22% is a major win for the DOD, and all branches of service. We hope that this 2013 trend will continue, and that we will see the number of suicides consistently fall for years to come.