The rate of suicides among active-duty US soldiers continues to be a troubling crisis in America’s military. According to a new report from the Pentagon, active-duty suicides have increased by 25% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2022, with more than one soldier taking their own life per day.
In the January-March period, there were 94 suicides among active-duty service members, compared to 75 in the previous year. This marks the highest number of military suicides in any three-month period since the second quarter of 2021, when there were 97 suicides.
The US Department of Defense (DOD) expressed its commitment to preventing suicides in the military community, acknowledging that every death by suicide is a tragedy. The Defense Suicide Prevention Office emphasized the urgent need for action to address this crisis.
Over the past two decades since the start of America’s “war on terror” following the September 2001 terrorist attacks, military suicides have seen a sharp increase. In 2020 alone, there were nearly 29 suicides per 100,000 troops, up from 17.5 ten years earlier.
It is important to note that the figures provided only account for active-duty soldiers and do not include reservists or veterans. On average, approximately 17 former US troops take their own lives each day, according to government data. The report also revealed that there were 41 suicides among reservists in the first quarter of this year, which remained unchanged from the previous year.
When examining the specific branches of the military, the report revealed alarming trends. Suicides among US Army troops increased by 32% in the January-March quarter compared to the same period in the previous year, reaching a total of 49. The Marine Corps saw an even larger increase, with suicides surging by 75% to reach a total of 14.
Efforts have been made by the Pentagon to address this distressing issue, but so far, they have not been successful in reversing the trend. In February, a DOD advisory panel recommended several measures to prevent military suicides, including banning gun purchases by soldiers under the age of 25 and implementing a seven-day waiting period for ammunition sales.
Unfortunately, active-duty suicides have consistently exceeded 300 per year for the past five years. The first-quarter total of 94 suicides puts the military on track to come closer to 400 such deaths in 2023.
This ongoing crisis highlights the urgent need for effective strategies and resources to support the mental health and well-being of active-duty soldiers. It emphasizes the importance of prioritizing mental health initiatives within the military community and further emphasizes the devastating impact of suicide on individuals, families, and the wider community.
It is vital for the Department of Defense to continue exploring and implementing comprehensive measures to address the underlying causes of military suicide and provide appropriate support systems for at-risk service members. By prioritizing mental health and fostering a culture of openness and support, progress can be made in reducing the alarming rates of suicide among America’s military personnel.