Thursday, August 16, 2007
Army soldiers committed suicide last year at the highest rate in 26 years, and more than a quarter did so while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, a military report shows.
The report, obtained by the Associated Press before its scheduled release today, found that there were 99 confirmed suicides among active-duty soldiers in 2006, up from 88 the previous year and the highest since the 102 suicides in 1991.
"Iraq was the most common deployment location for both (suicides) and attempts," the Army report said.
The 99 suicides included 28 soldiers deployed to the two wars and 71 who were not. About twice as many women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan committed suicide as did women not sent to war, the report said.
Preliminary numbers for the first half of this year indicate that the number of suicides could decline across the service but increase among troops serving in the wars, officials said.
The 2006 increases came as Army officials worked to set up a number of new and stronger programs for providing mental health care to a force strained by the longer-than-expected war in Iraq and the global counterterrorism war entering its sixth year.
Failed personal relationships, legal and financial problems, and job stress were factors motivating the soldiers to commit suicide, the report said.
"In addition, there was a significant relationship between suicide attempts and number of days deployed" in Iraq, Afghanistan or nearby countries where troops are participating in the war effort, it said. The same pattern appeared to hold true for those who not only attempted but also succeeded in killing themselves.
There also "was limited evidence to support the view that multiple . . . deployments are a risk factor for suicide behaviors," it said.
About a quarter of those who killed themselves had a history of at least one psychiatric disorder.