Military Sees Frustrating Trend as Suicides Spike – By Lolita C. Baldor – Sep 2019
Military suicides have surged to a record high among active duty troops, continuing a deadly trend that Pentagon officials say is frustrating and they are struggling to counter.
The difficulties involved in identifying service members with possible problems and finding ways to prevent suicides were underscored earlier this month when the Navy reported that three crew members who served on the USS George H.W. Bush took their own lives within a week.
The number of suicides across the military increased from 511 in 2017 to 541 in 2018.
“Our numbers are not moving in the right direction,” said Elizabeth Van Winkle, director of the Pentagon’s office of force resiliency. She said that most of the military rates are comparable to civilians, but added, “that’s hardly comforting.”
Military and defense leaders expressed dismay and a resolve to do more to increase resilience in the force, train service members how to handle stress better and encourage troops to seek help when they need it.
Van Winkle said the military is also looking at increasing efforts to train troops on the safe storage of firearms and medication.
…recognizing service members who may be struggling or at risk of taking their own lives is very difficult, and that sometimes suicide is a sudden, impulsive decision with little warning. They said it’s difficult to identify reasons for suicide because there are so many stresses that could contribute.
They also acknowledged that service members are reluctant to come forward and seek help, because they worry that it could affect promotions or security clearances
This year for the first time, the Pentagon included statistics for suicides by military spouses and dependents. Van Winkle said the most recent numbers available were for 2017, but officials are working to get better at collecting family data.
According to the report, there were 186 families that had suicides — 123 were spouses and 63 were dependents between the ages of 12 and 23.