WASHINGTON – Suicides in the US Army are on the rise with 88 suspected cases in the first six months of the year, compared to 67 in the same period in 2008, according to Pentagon figures issued.
The latest figures confirmed warnings from top US military officers that the number of suicides among active-duty soldiers this year was on track to surpass a record level set in 2008.
Last year 128 soldiers took their lives, up from 115 in 2007, amid increasing strain on Army troops serving repeated combat tours.
The 2008 suicide rate among active duty soldiers rose to 20.2 per 100,000, surpassing a demographically adjusted national suicide rate of 19.5 per 100,000 in 2005, the latest year on record.
Of the 88 reported suicides this year, 54 have been confirmed and 34 are pending investigation, the Defense Department said in a statement.
In about 90 percent of previous cases, suspected suicides have been confirmed, officials say.
"Every soldier suicide is different and tragic in its own way," said Brigadier General Colleen McGuire, director of the Army's suicide prevention task force.
"Although suicide can impact anyone, we're finding that male soldiers, in combat-arms occupational specialties, between ages 18 and 27 are more vulnerable," McGuire said.
The army has responded to the growing problem with more suicide prevention programs, efforts to screen soldiers for mental health problems and campaigns to reduce the stigma that prevents soldiers from seeking treatment.
The trauma of combat combined with the effect of repeated tours has led to a record rise in suicides across the armed services and particularly the US Army - which has carried the heaviest burden in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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