ARLINGTON, Va. — Army suicide rates in Iraq and Kuwait doubled between 2004 and 2005 but were still below the 2003 rate, officials said Tuesday.

But Armywide, the 2005 saw the highest rate of soldiers taking their own lives since the beginning of the Iraq war, officials said.

Officials spoke about the suicides Tuesday as the Army released a report on the third Mental Health Advisory Team Survey of troops in Iraq. Data for 2006 is not yet available.

In 2005, the number of soldiers in the Iraq theater who killed themselves was 22, double the 2004 figure of 11, but below the 2003 figure of 25, Morales said.

Armywide, the number of reported suicides was 88 in 2005, up from 67 in 2004 and 78 in 2003, said Walter E. Morales, Army suicide prevention manager.

Of the 2005 downrange suicides, five had been deployed more than once, said Dr. (Col.) Edward Crandell, who was in charge of the survey team to Iraq.

Crandell said suicide rates can vary up to 40 percent in a given year.

Asked about the increase in suicides in Iraq and Kuwait between 2004 and 2005, Crandell replied, “There’s no way to predict suicides.”

The Army’s Surgeon General, Dr. (Lt. Gen.) Kevin Kiley, said he does not see a trend in the suicide rates.

“It only takes a few to shift the numbers,” Kiley said.

Kiley said he has no evidence linking suicides with multiple deployments or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, saying most suicides are impulsive decisions.

“In some cases we’ve had young soldiers who will get bad relationship news and walk right into Porta-Potty and end their lives, and no one has an opportunity to intervene,” he said.

Kiley said he is standing up a suicide prevention cell to tackle the problem.

“The cell I am standing up in MEDCOM is to get to MEDCOM, which is my command, more fully engaged with the G-1 to sort these issues out to see if there is something we’re missing; to see if there is some new strategies, either in training, leader training, further reduction in stigma in seeking health care, and frankly, I’m not really ready to discuss it because my staff hasn’t come to me with some new ideas and some ideas initiatives in that regard,” he said.

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