Suicides in U.S. Army Are on Track to Reach New High

By Tony Capaccio

Nov. 13 (Bloomberg) -- The number of suicides among active- duty U.S. Army troops this year reached 133 in October, 18 more than in the same period last year and putting the service within reach of a new annual high.

The 133 reported suicides, including the National Guard and Reserves, between January and October compared with 115 during the same period in 2008 when the service recorded 140 by year’s end, an annual record, the Army said in a statement.

The rate of suicide within the Army last year was 20.2 per 100,000 personnel, exceeding for the first time the age-adjusted rate in the civilian population, which was 19.2, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The institute has paired with the Army to undertake the biggest study ever of suicide and behavioral health among military personnel.

The Army has taken extra steps in the past year to prevent suicides as the number of cases began to alarm officials. Measures include training, a suicide prevention task force and a day of standing down from official duties to focus on suicide prevention.

The “stigma” of acknowledging the need for counseling “continues to be one of the most difficult challenges we confront,” Brigadier General Colleen McGuire, director of the Suicide Prevention Task Force, said in the statement.

“The more we educate our Army community about the need to get help, the need to get it early and that a full recovery is often possible” from stress, the sooner that stigma will disappear, she said.

The Army also paired with the National Institute of Mental Health to begin the biggest study ever of suicide and behavioral health among military personnel.