Suicide in the Services


Not pleasant to think about on this evening and weekend traditionally set aside for family and giving thanks, but all the costs of war and a huge world-sprawling military are worth considering. See this sobering Congressional Quarterly account of U.S. military suicides:

More U.S. military personnel have taken their own lives so far in 2009 than have been killed in either the Afghanistan or Iraq wars this year….As of Tuesday, at least 334 members of the military services have committed suicide in 2009, compared with 297 killed in Afghanistan and 144 who died in Iraq, the figures show…..

So far in 2009, the Army has had 211 of the 334 suicides, while the Navy had 47, the Air Force had 34 and the Marine Corps (active duty only) had 42….

Armed forces personnel traditionally have had a much lower suicide rate than the population at large. Because the most recently available national suicide statistics from the Centers for Disease Control are from 2006, it is impossible to know whether the current military rate is higher than the current civilian rate. However, the civilian suicide rate for males ages 20-29 hovered around 20 per 100,000 during the first half of this decade. The Army said its suicide rate is now a bit higher than that for the first time.

Moreover, the total number who have killed themselves in 2009 is probably higher than 334, because the figure does not include unavailable suicide statistics for 2009 for Marine Corps reservists or veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who have left the service.

The veterans' numbers, in particular, could yet swell the totals considerably. The Department of Veterans Affairs said an average of 53 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans committed suicide each year between 2002 and 2006. And that number only includes suicides among the quarter of all veterans who use the VA's health system.

The Army says only 1/3 2/3 [thanks to commenter Art-P.O.G. for pointing out my error] of the suicides are from active duty soldiers who have actually been deployed in either of our two ongoing wars in the news, Iraq and Afghanistan. But the stresses and separation from home and family of military life obviously take their toll even if not actively involved in a combat zone. A wonderfully empassioned attack on the anti-family aspect of world-straddling militaries and constant ongoing wars is contained within the pages of occasional Reason magazine contributor Bill Kauffman's great recent book Ain't My America.