Possible increase in suicides among army soldiers in 2007

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The amount of army suicides has been growing. 2007 has experienced a “possible” increase in suicides of over 20 percent, with as many as 121 soldiers reported to have committed suicide. The exact numbers consist of 89 confirmed suicides and 32 deaths that are suspect and still under investigation. The number of suicides for 2007, if confirmed, would be more than double the amount reported in 2001, 52 suicides.

This occurred regardless of the various efforts over the past year to support the mental health of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan through various federally funded programs. Approximately a quarter of the estimated amount of suicide victims died during a tour in Iraq. Additionally, 2007 showed an increase in attempted suicides at 2,100, compared to 1,500 in 2006, and only 500 in 2002. The following is an excerpt of an article from CNN.com that reviews the numbers:

Officials said the rate of suicides per 100,000 active duty soldiers has not yet been calculated for 2007. But in a half million-person active duty Army, the 2006 toll of 102 translated to a rate of 17.5 per 100,000, the highest since the Army started counting in 1980, officials said. The rate has fluctuated over those years, with the low being 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001.

Col. Elspeth Ritchie, the psychiatry consultant to the Army surgeon general, has said that officials found failed personal relationships, legal and financial problems and the stress of their jobs have been main factors in soldiers’ suicides.

Officials also have found that the number of days troops are deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan or nearby countries contributes to that stress.

With the Army stretched thin by years of fighting the two wars, the Pentagon last year extended normal tours of duty to 15 months from 12 and has sent some troops back to the wars several times.

The Army has been hoping to reduce tour lengths this summer. But the prospect could depend heavily on what Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, recommends when he gives his assessment of security in Iraq and troop needs to Congress in April.

Click here to read the rest of the AP’s story on CNN.com

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