By Debbie Gregory.
The number of suicides among active duty military personnel jumped slightly in 2014. Because every suicide is one suicide too many, each military service branch has been implementing its own prevention program, each with realistic approaches and expectations. These programs seemed to be working, as each branch saw a considerable drop in 2013, from the year before, across active and Reservist/Guard components.
According to Department of Defense data, there were 288 suicides among active duty personnel in 2014. Although this number is higher than the 286 suicides recorded for 2013, it is still a far cry from the 352 confirmed military suicides, a record high, reported in 2012.
For the last several years, all of the service branches have been aggressively generating and retooling their suicide awareness and prevention programs. The emphasis of these programs has been on identifying and reaching out to service members who may be having problems, and encouraging them to come forward if they need help. Each branch has also taken special care to educate and empower everyone, including junior enlisted personnel, to recognize and react to any signs of crisis among their peers. Military leaders have also tried to implement programs for reducing stress, and teaching service members about coping mechanisms and other tools to deal with the various pressures of military life.
This time last year, Pentagon officials were encouraged to see the number of suicides drop by more than 15% from 2012 to 2013. But the same leaders have also cautioned that there will be jumps and drops in this battle.
Among the jumps in this year’s statistics was in the Air Force, increasing from 52 suicides in 2013 to 60 in 2014. The Navy’s statistics also rose from 43 in 2013 to 58 in 2014.
The Marine Corps’ statistics improved, dropping from 45 in 2013 to 35 in 2014. The Army also saw improvement, going from 146 confirmed suicides in 2013, to 135 in 2014.
Again, even one service member suicide is too many. But there is more awareness about this matter than ever before. With continued program development and participation, hopefully we can see the number of military suicides begin to drop significantly, ideally down to zero.
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