Suicides in the U.S. military increased 15% in 2020, USA Today is reporting.
The newspaper noted the sharp increase from the previous year came despite Pentagon initiatives aimed at preventing service members from taking their own lives.
Last year, 580 military members committed suicide, compared with 504 in 2019. USA Today said the figures were confirmed by congressional and Defense Department sources.
There were 543 suicides among troops in 2018. A Defense Department official was uncertain why there had been a decrease in 2019 followed by a jump in 2020.
The Pentagon was set to officially release the 2020 figures on Thursday.
USA Today said most of the military members who died by suicide are enlisted men. And the Army has seen a jump in suicides in troops in Alaska. The newspaper reported there have been six suspected suicide deaths in the first five months of 2021.
In Sept. 2020, Army and Air Force officials had said they believed the pandemic was adding stress to an already strained force.
The Associated Press said Army leaders had acknowledged they couldn't directly tie the increase to the virus, but the timing coincides with it.
James Helis, director of the Army’s resilience programs, said then that virus-related isolation, financial disruptions, remote schooling, and loss of childcare all happening almost overnight had strained soldiers and their families.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported Thursday that an Army spokesman confirmed an investigation has been launched into the deaths of three soldiers in suspected "self-harm incidents."
The three had all served with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, and died between Sept. 16 and 17.
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