With an on-going war and many soldiers deployed overseas, suicide has become one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Military. Over the last decade, more than 2,700 soldiers have taken their own life. Last year, the U.S. Military saw the worst year on record for suicide by military personnel.
"War pays demands. They experience a way of life that they had no idea would exist" said Wichita County Veteran Service Officer Marcia Rossi.
But according to a new report published by the Army Times, the number of suicides decreased this year to 157 soldiers compared to 192 last year between the months of January and early July. Rossi who has served in the Air Force for over 30 years says suicides often stem from the military stigma.
"There was a stigma that you man up. You man up and just deal with your own problems. And that's been there for years and years. You don't tell anybody" she said.
So now, the military is actively trying to change their stigma to lower suicide numbers. They are encouraging open communication and installing a program that teaches soldiers how to identify signs of depression or change in others.
"They buddy is being taught not to leave that person alone. To be with them, council them and if they can, to take them to the next chain like the chaplain, medic or someone who can help them get some counseling" said Rossi.
Rossi also believes the key to reducing suicides is to create an educational program that teaches the mental fortitude of being on the battlefield. She remains hopeful that numbers will continue to decrease as new resources become available.
"The military is using all of its resources possible to prepare those guys to help heal them now. So suicides can become a thing of the past. I pray that it will become a thing of the past one day" she said.
Suicide is not only a problem for active military personnel but also for veterans. Statistics show that roughly 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
The Department of Defense is currently working to improve reporting on suicides and attempts because the military suicide rate is hard to determine because the number of personnel serving is in constant fluctuation and Guard and reserve members often shift on and off active duty, making it difficult to gauge the size of the population.
Military/Veterans Crisis Line is also available for those seeking help.
Statistics according to the Department of Defense Suicide Event Report:
- Most service members who die by suicide are young, white, male and never deployed
- 47% experienced a failed intimate relationship before they died, and 37% faced work-related or legal problems in the months before their deaths
- More than 40% of military personnel said they didn't seek treatment for mental health conditions for fear of damaging their careers.
- Nearly a third of troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have considered suicide, 45% know a fellow post-9/11 veteran who tried to commit suicide