Suicide in the Military
Candace L. Clark
October 7, 2009
Stressed by war and long overseas tours, U.S. soldiers killed themselves last year at the highest rate on record, the toll rising for a fourth straight year and even surpassing the suicide rate among comparable civilians. Army leaders said they were doing everything they could think of to curb the deaths and appealed for more mental health professionals to join and help out. Clearly, the military is going above and beyond to try and prevent further lives from being taken. According to the sociologist Emile Durkheim, when a person has a very strong degree of social connectedness, he or she may identify with its values or causes to such an extent that
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In a report to Congress, Craig Duehring, assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower, said, “there does not appear to be a strong correlation between deployments and suicide.” A check of deployment records found that from 2003 to 2008, only 39 Air Force suicide victims had deployed in the previous 12 months. Another 150 had never deployed. A more common indicator of risk was seeking mental health counseling for issues ranging from alcohol abuse to marriage counseling, Duehring’s report said. Fifty-five percent of airmen who killed themselves had attended counseling sessions (Air Force Times, 2009). Other factors in the Air Force suicide rate include relationships gone awry and poor communication between the treating mental health providers and commanders. There is always tension in the military between confidentiality and the need to communicate with supervisors. This is now being addressed so that soldiers can discuss personal issues without being worried about facing discharge. The Navy’s suicide rate has remained roughly steady over the past four years, but suicide ranks as the service’s third-leading cause of death, said Walsh. The Navy reported 41 suicides in 2008, a rate of 11.6 per 100,000. About 39 percent of the sailors who committed suicide last year were facing disciplinary action, he added.