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Army Suicide Still on the Rise


Reports show that June was the worst month for U.S. Army suicides since Vietnam, the Defense Department says, with 32 soldiers taking their own lives (slightly more than one a day), bringing the six-month total to 145 suicides. This puts 2010's numbers on track to beat 2009 figures, when 245 soldiers ended their lives.

The sad statistics doesn’t even count veterans who already have returned home and separated from the service. These horrific statistics do not include Marines, sailors or airmen either.

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In 2008, an influential RAND Corp. report estimated that at least 300,000 troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress or major depression. That’s roughly one in every five. People with such illnesses are at increased risk of suicide or violent behavior.

The number of attempted suicides or self-inflicted injuries in the Army has skyrocketed since the Iraq war began. Last year, about 2,100 soldiers injured themselves or attempted suicide, compared with about 350 in 2002, according to the U.S. Army Medical Command Suicide Prevention Action Plan.

Many Army posts still cannot offer enough individual counseling and some soldiers suffering psychological problems complain that they are stigmatized by commanders. Over the past year, four high-level commissions have recommended reforms and Congress has given the military hundreds of millions of dollars to improve its mental health care, but critics charge that significant progress has not been made.

Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, the Army's top psychiatrist and author of the study, said that suicides and attempted suicides "are continuing to rise despite a lot of things we're doing now and have been doing." Ritchie added: "We need to improve training and education. We need to improve our capacity to provide behavioral health care." Meanwhile, Army suicides remain on the increase and last month was the worse recorded yet.