The report, obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its release scheduled Thursday, found there were 99 confirmed suicides among active-duty soldiers during 2006, up from 88 the previous year and the highest since the 102 suicides in 1991.
The suicide rate for the Army has fluctuated over the past 26 years, from last year’s high of 17.3 per 100,000 to a low of 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001.
Last year, “Iraq was the most common deployment location for both (suicides) and attempts,” the report said.
The 99 suicides included 28 soldiers deployed to the two wars and 71 who weren’t. 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 the number of suicides could decline across the service in 2007 but increase among troops inside the war zones, officials said.
The increases for 2006 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 President Bush’s worldwide campaign against terror, entering its sixth year.
Failed personal relationships, legal and financial problems and the stress of their jobs were factors motivating the soldiers to commit suicide, according to the report.
“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 seemed to hold true for those who not only attempted, but 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. Of those, about 20 percent had been diagnosed with a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder and-or depression; and 8 percent had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, including post traumatic stress disorder — a signature injury of the conflict in Iraq.
Firearms were the most common method of suicide. Those who attempted suicide but did not succeed tended more often to take overdoses and cut themselves.
In a service of more than a half-million troop, the 99 suicides amounted to a rate of 17.3 per 100,000 — the highest in the past 26 years, the report said. The average rate over those years has been 12.3 per 100,000.
The rate for those serving in the wars stayed about the same, 19.4 per 100,000 in 2006, compared to 19.9 in 2005.
The Army said the information was compiled from reports collected as part of its suicide prevention program. The reports are required for all “suicide-related behaviors that result in death, hospitalization or evacuation” of the soldier. It can take considerable time to investigate a suicide, and the Army said that in addition to the 99 confirmed suicides last year, two other deaths are suspected suicides still under investigation.
The Associated PressPosted :
Thursday Aug 16, 2007 18:46:58 EDT