What Is to Blame for the Spike in Army Suicides?

Unsettling news about Afghanistan today: the Army released its suicide data for the month of June. The deaths of 21 active soldiers and 11 reserve soldiers are being counted as suicides, raising this year's number to 145. At this rate, 2010 is on pace to become the worst year for suicides since the Vietnam War. The Army's response thus far has been to release a suicide prevention video called "Shoulder to Shoulder: I Will Never Quit on Life." 

Paul Reickhoff, the Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, urged the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense today to "declare war on this problem." Reickhoff told Big Think today that "untreated psychological injuries" have much to do with the spike in suicides. He also blamed the Army being stretched thin: "Troops are under a lot of stress because of multiple deployments. Many folks are going back three, four and five times, which takes a huge toll on the individual and the family."

Reickhoff has called for "a nationwide campaign to combat suicide and to promote the use of DOD and VA services such as Vet Centers and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline."  He said, "the Army’s new suicide prevention video is a good first step, but until there is a national campaign targeting every servicemember and veteran, many will continue to fall through the cracks." And President Obama, he added, needs to "be visible on this issue and lead a national call to action."

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