Army Releases 2011 Suicide Numbers
Posted by Moran Banai on January 20
Today, the Army released information about suicide among soldiers in December 2011. In December, 11 active duty soldiers and five reservists not on active duty potentially committed suicide; 278 soldiers in total may have committed suicide in 2011. This is 27 less than in 2010, which saw the highest amount of Army suicides in recent history, and the numbers dropped particularly among the reserve component. But these numbers are still far too high - in comparison, 393 service members from all services were killed in action in Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn in 2011.
The drop may be the result of the military’s understanding that it has a suicide epidemic on its hands, and the programs it has begun to put in place to address the issue. Unfortunately, the picture for new veterans who have separated from the military is far less clear. Unlike the Army, the VA does not regularly release data about veteran suicide, resulting in a significant gap in information and understanding. The best available public information is the VA’s claim that more than 6,000 veterans committed suicide in 2009. Further, the VA does not even have the authority to assess and address suicide among veterans who are not registered with the agency. With 47 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans still not registered with the VA, there is a huge population of new vets about whom very little is known, including their suicide rate.
Army Suicides from Jan 2009 to December 2011
Although the information about veteran suicide is limited, it is crystal clear that there is a significant problem. As we’ve seen over the course of the last decade of war, this problem is falling largely onto the shoulders of local communities. The circumstances that lead to suicide are complex and different for every individual. But ensuring that veterans have the support they need from people who understand and can relate to their experiences is an important piece to preventing potential suicides.
The First Lady’s announcement on January 11 of the partnership between the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) and Joining Forces is an important step forward in fighting the suicide epidemic. Through these partnerships, the AAMC and the AACOM will teach their medical students about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries, and develop and share new research to treat these conditions. Ensuring that the future doctors of America understand these signature wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is critical as they end up treating the almost fifty percent of new vets who do not go to the VA.
There is no silver bullet for ending the military and veteran suicide epidemic. But steps like the one taken by the medical colleges and Joining Forces, and the work being done by the military, and the Department of Defense, will hopefully begin to reverse this tragic course. Our veterans deserve only the best support, care and resources.
If you are a veteran transitioning home and looking for community, sign up for IAVA’s Community of Veterans for access to critical resources on PTSD, TBI & more: click here to join. And save this number: 800-273-TALK, press 1, for round-the-clock support from the Veterans Crisis Line. You can also join Veteran Crisis Line's online chat - any questions, any time, completely confidential: click here for more information.
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