Army Releases November Suicide Numbers
Posted by Moran Banai on December 16
On Thursday, the U.S. Army reported 15 suspected suicides among active-duty soldiers and reservists in November pushing the military near another yearly-high. To date, the U.S. Army suspects 260 soldiers may have committed suicide in 2011. Yet, our community's understanding of the epidemic is severely limited by the lack of consistent information.
The different branches have tracked most sucides since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the biggest challenge associated with the military's data is that the criteria across the services are not identical. Earlier this year, RAND released a report assessing suicide prevention in the military -- their top recommendation was standardization across branches.
The lack of data about suicide amongst veterans is even more scarce. According to the latest available data, the VA estimates that more than 6,000 veterans across all generations committed suicide in 2009. However, the VA only tracks the incidence of suicide among veterans who are registered with the VA. Only 53 percent of eligible Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are registered with the VA. There is scarce information about the other 47 percent eligible; nor is there means to track those ineligble.
But that's not the only missing piece of the puzzle. As IAVA’s new report, Unsung Heroes, on military families highlights, military spouses and children are dealing with mental injuries of their own as a result of the strain of the deployment cycle and other pressures. According to the most recent study, 36 percent of military spouses have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Neither DoD nor VA is mandated to track on their suicides.
BLUF: There is a suicide epidemic in our community impacting service members, veterans and their loved ones alike. Without a full accounting, the true extent of this problem will remain hard to understand -- and even harder to save lives. As the Iraq drawdown nears zero hour, 40,000 troops will join IAVA's ranks in the new year. At the local level, IAVA calls on all states to begin tracking the military status of those who die in their jurisdictions and report that information to the CDC's National Violent Death Database. This method would allow the United States to track on veteran suicide. Equally critical is to begin to grasp the level of the challenge among families. Once we understand the whole picture, it will be easier to assess and address this difficult issue.
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