While incidents of suicide are a sad and terrible thing in our society, they can be particularly troubling when they occur among the ranks of the men and women who serve and defend this nation in the armed forces.
A recent report released by the Department of Defense showed quite tragically that suicides in the military were not only on the rise in 2018, but even reached a record-high level among active duty members.
The Defense Department’s Quarterly Suicide Report for the end of the 2018 calendar year, which compiles the information provided by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner Services and Suicide Prevention Program Offices, was recently released to the public by the Defense Suicide Prevention Office.
The report provides the total number of suicides among active duty members of the four major military branches — Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy — as well as total suicides among those branches’ reserve corps and state-level Air and Army National Guard units.
There were a record-setting 325 suicides among the active component of the military in 2018, a significant increase over the 285 suicide deaths among active duty troops in 2017 and four deaths more than the previous record year of 2012, which saw a total of 321 suicide deaths.
Suicides among the reserve component were down in 2018, with a total of 81 compared to 93 deaths in 2017, and the total among the National Guard ticked up just slightly from 133 in 2017 to 135 suicide deaths in 2018.
Given the fact that the Army makes up the largest segment of the military with the most members, it is unsurprising that the active, reserve and guard components of the Army saw the highest numbers of suicides among all of the various branches and components, with 139 suicides among active duty troops, 48 suicides among Army reserves, and 118 suicide deaths among Army National Guard soldiers.
The least affected branch of the military would appear to be the Air Force, with 60 deaths among active duty members, 3 suicides among the reserves and 17 suicides among the Air National Guard.
However, in light of the fact that there is no affiliated National Guard component, it could be argued that there were fewer suicides among Marines, as there were only 58 suicides among active duty Marines and 19 suicides among the Marine Corps Reserve.
As for the Navy, there were 68 suicide deaths among active duty sailors and 11 suicides in the Navy reserve.
Supporting our troops
There really is no broadly accepted reason for the increased number of suicides among the military in 2018, save for the fact that military life can be incredibly stressful and challenging at times, though these factors are nothing new to service members or their families.
Regardless of what may be driving these suicides, it should be abundantly clear to all Americans that, now more than ever, our nation’s men and women in uniform need all of the support — mental, physical, and spiritual — that they can get from the civilians they protect and defend in the homeland.