Military suicide rate continues to increase

“Just as we talk about physical fitness, marksmanship, training and education, Marines must also be comfortable discussing life’s struggles, mental wellness and suicide.”

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Image credit: U.S. Army

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the suicide rate among active service members has been steadily increasing over the last five years. The majority of service members that committed suicide were enlisted, male, under the age of 30, and died by firearm.

The Pentagon recently released their Annual Suicide Report for calendar year 2018. The report states that the suicide rate for the Active Component increased from 18.5 to 24.8 suicides per 100,000 Service members from 2013 to 2018.

In 2016, the number of service members who committed suicide was 482. In 2017, the number increased to 511. Last year, the number rose again to 541.

The largest number of suicides occurred among the Army. Army suicides went from 114 to 139, while the Marines went from 43 to 58. The Navy went from 65 to 68, while the Air Force dropped from 63 to 60. Reserve units dropped from 93 to 81, while the National Guard went from 133 to 135.

“Just as we talk about physical fitness, marksmanship, training and education, Marines must also be comfortable discussing life’s struggles, mental wellness and suicide,” Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, told The Associated Press. “We must create a community where seeking help and assistance are simply normal, important decisions Marines and sailors make.”

The Pentagon also included statistics for suicides by military spouses and dependents. In 2017, there were 186 reported suicide deaths among military spouses and dependents. The majority of military spouses who committed suicide were female and under the age of 40. The majority of military dependents who committed suicide were male.

Among military families in 2017, the number of spouses who committed suicide was 123. The number of dependents between the ages of 12 and 23 who committed suicide was 63.

In the report, the Defense Department wrote, “The Department is strongly committed to preventing suicides within our military community. The health, safety, and well-being of our military community is essential to the readiness of the Total Force. Any death by suicide is a tragedy. The DoD embraces a public health approach to suicide prevention that acknowledges a complex interplay of individual-, relationship-, and community-level risk factors. This approach focuses on reducing the suicide risk of all Service members and their family members by attempting to address the myriad of underlying risk and socio-demographic factors (e.g., reluctance towards help-seeking, relationship problems, access to lethal means), while also enhancing protective factors (e.g., strong social connections, problem-solving, and coping skills).”

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741, or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

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