Services still struggling to get handle on suicides
Suicide remained a problem without a clear solution in both the active-duty and veteran communities in 2011.
With a month left in the year, 154 active-duty soldiers had taken their own lives, five shy of the 2010 mark and eight shy of the Army’s tragic record in 2009 of 162.
The Marine Corps, with 32 suicides through November, is on pace for a second straight year of declining numbers after a peak of 52 suicides in 2009. The Air Force counted 41 suicides through Dec. 21, down from 54 last year. The Navy had recorded 46 suicides through Dec. 6, up from 39 last year and tied with 2009 for the most on record in the last 10 years.
Researchers estimated that veterans commit suicide at a rate of 18 per day, though no official statistics are kept. Stars and Stripes in June profiled former Spc. Jacob Andrews, who was kicked out of the Army amid a confluence of mental health issues and behavioral problems, and months later hanged himself outside his childhood home.
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are still struggling to find the best ways to diagnose and treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, the signature wounds of the recent wars.
Also this year, attention turned to a particularly disturbing cause for suicide among servicemembers: hazing.
Both the Army and the Marine Corps are dealing with cases of suspected suicide in which fellow servicemembers face charges related to mistreatment of the victim.
In a third case, involving Army Spc. Brushaun Anderson’s suicide in Iraq in 2010, Stars and Stripes this summer reported on an investigation in which his leaders were essentially given a slap on the wrist, despite “cruel, abusive and oppressive” treatment of Anderson before his death.