Pentagon reports record number of suicides
A soldier on patrol in Afghanistan. Photo by ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images
January 15th, 2013
04:03 PM ET

Pentagon reports record number of suicides

By Barbara Starr

Despite extensive support and counseling programs, as many as 349 U.S. service members committed suicide last year, which would be the highest number since the Department of Defense began keeping detailed statistics in 2001.

According to the Pentagon, 239 military deaths in 2012 have been confirmed as suicides and another 110 are being investigated as probable suicides. The number of suicides in 2011 reached 301; there were 298 the year before.

The statistics on suicides among service members, many of whom had deployed to war zones, included deaths among reserve forces.

Each branch of the service showed an increase. The Army had by far the highest number of suicides and probable suicides - 182, a number that was up from 166 in 2011. The Navy had 60 suicides in 2012 compared with 52 the year before, followed by the Air Force with 59 (up from 51) and the Marine Corps with 48 (up from 32).

For years, the Pentagon has struggled with how to identify service members at risk for suicide and to provide counseling and other services. The Army and Navy have focused on teaching "resiliency" to troops in hopes of helping them cope with stress. Military experts have long said one of the enduring challenges is that there doesn't appear to be a direct link between suicides and the stress of being in the combat zone.

A private-sector group, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which provides military grief support programs, reported it has eight to 10 cases a week of people seeking help because they are dealing with the suicide of a service member. Of the people contacting the organization for care and support, 18% were "grieving a death by suicide," TAPS said in a statement.

"We are deeply saddened by this loss of life, and renew our commitment to support the military families left behind who are grieving the deaths of service members by suicide," said Bonnie Carroll, founder of TAPS. She is a former co-chair of a congressionally mandated Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide in the Armed Forces.

"We know that at least 10 people are personally impacted by each death and every death is a tragedy," Carroll said in the statement.

Kim Ruocco, who directs suicide postvention programs for TAPS, said service members in distress deserve "an immediate and comprehensive response."

"We do not expect for a soldier with a broken leg to be strong and get up and become better without seeking medical treatment," said Ruocco, the widow of Marine Maj. John Ruocco, who died by suicide in 2005. "When a soldier is suffering from a mental health injury, he or she deserves medical treatment and the very best care that is available."


Filed under: Army • Defense Spending • Marines • Military • Navy • Security Brief • Sequestration
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Harlan Franchi

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    May 2, 2013 at 3:14 am | Reply
  2. billindetroit

    Obama is afraid to draft ... bad politics to kill off the people who have been voting for you. So that means that the guys and gals already in the military are having a hard time getting back out. These are never-ending wars with never-ending tours of duty.

    February 5, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Reply
  3. brian

    My question is why people in the air force are committing suicide? What is their desk chair not comfortable

    January 24, 2013 at 1:04 am | Reply
    • mark

      my question is how many were on antidepressants?

      January 31, 2013 at 11:17 pm | Reply
  4. Egon

    Interesting that this can be reported, but no news stories on the pentagon employees BUSTED for downloading kiddie porn.

    January 16, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Reply
  5. NNN

    They skipped the part where Panetta claims that many of the suicides are due to anxiety over the impending Defense cuts. It is just unbelievable how low these people will stoop for the almighty dollar. The vast majority of suicides occur within the younger enlistment group who can't wait to get out.

    January 16, 2013 at 11:41 am | Reply
    • Portland tony

      @CNN...Get this hate monger out of here!

      January 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Reply
      • Portland tony

        Not at @NNN...@MORE PROOF THE TROLL

        January 16, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
      • More Proof We Own You

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        January 16, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  6. More Proof We Own You

    Just so you know . . . . these aren't suicides . . . .

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    January 16, 2013 at 11:29 am | Reply
  7. George Patton

    Maybe if those idiot politicians in Washington ever thought of the human cost of going to another useless and unnecessary war of theirs, we may not have this high rate of suicides. To them, going to war is no more, no less another way of doing business. They have no concern for the average man and his feelings!

    January 15, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Reply
  8. Portland tony

    Did troops in other conflicts have the same suicide rate?.....The Guys and girls that fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam were certainly less prepared for the killing, isolation and separation from family and friends than those who fight today and can talk to and see their loved ones via Skype almost daily etc.....What can cause these young men and women in their prime to take their own lives? ....Dammit there's an answer and we must find it!

    January 15, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Reply
    • Alex279

      The guys who fought Korea and Vietnam were draft soldiers, which means that they spent about one year on active duty in the actual war zone before returning back. WW2 is a different story, because it was more of an all-out type of war with the entire country involved, so the returning soldiers had lesser difficulty in adapting back into civilian life - merely because there were many people around with similar experiences.

      The specifics of the current wars is that overall much fewer people go to active duty, but those who do got caught into "stop loss program", which means that they are in-and-out many times being recycled, typically going trough five or more tours of duty, and getting worn out mentally.

      January 15, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Reply
      • Portland tony

        The troops today are seeing less combat and atrocities than during the height of the Iraq conflict .....So What's going on? Are we at home doing something wrong?

        January 16, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • Alex279

        Nobody can say for sure why, and the report does not say when statistically most of these people are most likely to kill themselves i.e., how much time have passed from the point when they came back from war zones and were they still considered in the army, or discharged and have difficulties to adapt to civilian life.

        One things seem to be certain: suicides during combat itself are quite rare. I happens , bit not as often.

        The figure of nearly 300 per year after returning home is quite shocking. It is comparable to war losses themselves.

        January 16, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  9. Tembisa

    Reblogged this on World Chaos.

    January 15, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Reply

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