Investigation Shows Military Suicides Up; Leaders Push Response
The suicide rate among military personnel has increased in recent years, and at least 334 members of the military services have killed themselves this year, according to a CQ Today investigation.
The figures have caused concern among some lawmakers, who say that more needs to be done to address the military's growing suicide problem.
House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Bob Filner (D-Calif.) said, "These numbers are just staggering and, tragically, are an indication that we are simply not doing the job of providing adequate mental health care for both our active-duty service people and our veterans."
The problem is most acute in the Army, which has had 211 of the suicides. The Navy had 47 suicides, the Air Force had 34 suicides, and there were 42 suicides among active-duty Marines.
The actual number of suicides likely is higher because the 2009 statistics exclude Marine Corps reservists and veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who have left the service.
In the past, armed forces personnel have had much lower suicide rates than the country's population as a whole. The most recent CDC suicide statistics are from 2006, so it is difficult to determine whether that is still the case.
The Army is taking steps to address the problem by aggressively pursuing mental health screening and education programs, according to Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli.
The new defense funding bill (Pub.L 111-84) also requires more mental health providers in all branches.
Filner is pushing legislation that would create a pilot program to help military personnel re-integrate into society after deployments. His program would include mandatory psychological evaluations and brain trauma screenings, as well as follow-up care (Donnelly, CQ Today, 11/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.