US Army reports big increase in suicides last month
The US Army reported Thursday that the number
of suicides in January could be as high as 24, just days after the service
revealed that 2008 was one of the worst years in decades for soldiers taking
their own lives, dpa reported.
The US Army has confirmed there were seven suicides last month, but noted there are an additional 17 suspected suicide cases that are still under investigation.
That compares with five in January of 2008, six in January of 2007 and 10 in January of 2006, an Army spokesman said.
In all of 2008, at least 128 soldiers committed suicide, a number that could climb because 15 deaths remain under investigation, the army said in late January. The 128 self-inflicted deaths represented the highest number in a year since the Army began tracking the incidents in 1980.
There were 115 suicides in 2007.
The numbers increased for the fourth year in a row despite sweeping improvements to identify and treat soldiers exhibiting suicidal behaviour. January's figures added to concern that more must be done.
"The trend and trajectory seen in January further heightens the seriousness and urgency that all of us must have in preventing suicides," said General Peter Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff of the Army.
The Army in recent years has launched initiatives to educate soldiers about how to recognize potentially dangerous behaviour among their ranks and to eliminate the stigma associated with seeking mental health care.
Chiarelli said the Army was exploring more ways to improve the mental health of soldiers. The Army introduced the earlier measures years ago after soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from mental trauma.