The barrage of unfortunate military news continues: According to a press release from the Department of Defense on Friday, the Army saw a high number of active-duty soldier suicides in July. Three suicides have been confirmed, and the Army is investigating 19 other suspected suicides.
This marks a jump from June, in which the Army reported nine potential active-duty suicides. And when including the 10 possible suicides by soldiers who were not on active duty in July, the numbers are even more staggering. Last month’s figures were the highest in the two years the Army has been releasing monthly data.
In a statement, Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, said,
“While the high number of potential suicides in July is discouraging, we are confident our efforts aimed at increasing individuals’ resiliency, while reducing incidence of at-risk and high-risk behavior across the force, are having a positive impact. We absolutely recognize there is much work to be done and remain committed to ensuring our people are cared for and have ready access to the best possible programs and services.”
The situation is difficult and disheartening. Commanders have said they are trying to urge soldiers to seek help rather than take their own life, but challenges posed by post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological issues are hard to effectively tackle. As Chiarelli told reporters, “The hardest part about this is breaking down the stigma. … In their mind they really don’t believe these injuries are as serious as the injuries that they can see.”
The military and other branches of government have been struggling to deal with the rising suicide rate. Last month, Obama announced he would begin sending condolence letters to the families of troops who commit suicide in combat zones. The Army also posted 130 new job openings for counselors to fight against substance abuse and mental health issues. Even so, the suicide rate reflects the need for greater preparation before soldiers face combat, not after the damage is already done.