Combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, misuse of drugs and debt problems blamed for increase

Associated Press
Thursday 7 June 2012

Suicide among US troops, including those serving in Afghanistan, has increased by 18 per cent in the last year. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian

Suicide is on the rise in the US military, averaging almost one every day, according to statistics.

In the first 155 days of 2012 there was 154 suicides among active troops, around 50% more than the number killed in action in Afghanistan, according to Pentagon statistics obtained by Associated Press. This is the highest number in 10 years.

The numbers reflect the burden of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to experts. The military is also struggling with increased sexual assaults, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and other problems.

Suicides had levelled off in 2010 and 2011, but this year’s surge has caught officials by surprise.

Studies have pointed to combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, misuse of prescription drugs and personal financial problems as possible reasons for the increase.

Army data suggest soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk of killing themselves, although a substantial proportion of the deaths are among soldiers who have never been deployed.

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