Army reports 32 suicides in June, highest number since early 2009

By Greg Jaffe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 17, 2010

The U.S. Army suffered 32 suicides in June, the highest number for a single month since January 2009, when the suicide rate in the Army began to spike.

The boost in the number of suicides in June was likely driven by the "continued stresses on the force" caused by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said Col. Chris Philbrick, the director of the Army's suicide prevention task force. The Army has poured money and other resources into getting a handle on the suicide rate and, until last month, had begun to see some tentative signs that the rate was trending downward among active-duty troops.

The June numbers, however, represent a disappointing setback and suggest that, after nine years of combat, the Army is showing some serious signs of strain. The results from the first two weeks of July suggest that the suicide rate for this month will not be as high.

In the first six months of the year, 80 active-duty soldiers committed suicide or are suspected of having committed suicide, down from 88 in the same period last year. The Army National Guard, by contrast, had 65 suicides in the first six months, up from 42 in that period last year.

The Army's suicide rate in 2009 exceeded the rate among civilians for the first time in decades.

The total number of Army suicides in June was about the same as the number of Army troops killed in Afghanistan last month, the deadliest month of the war for U.S. and NATO forces.

U.S. Army officials are at a loss to explain the increase in National Guard suicides, which could be linked to the combined stress of the war and the growing strain on the U.S. economy. "There is no indication that the National Guard's operational tempo has increased," Philbrick said.

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