Army Suicides

Two West Point cadets have committed suicide since December and two others attempted suicide in the past two weeks, prompting the academy’s leaders to summon a Surgeon General’s suicide team. The suicides are the first since at least 2005. Some West Point cadets blamed the problem on the high stress of life at the academy as well as hazing and said there have been as many as five suicide attempts since November. While I was completely unaware of any suicides or attempts when I was a cadet in the early 1960s, I can certify that the place is stressful—they’re training combat leaders there; we sure don’t want officers who can’t handle stress leading our soldiers.br /This is an Army problem. The Dec. 8 suicide was counted among the 128 confirmed cases for 2008. An additional 15 await final determination by the armed forces medical examiner. For the Army overall, the high pace of deployments contributes to an active-duty suicide rate that has steadily risen since 2004. I’m not sure why this surprises anyone; the nation’s refusal to begin the draft and grow the military has placed enormous, non-stop stress on our soldiers.br /The 2008 suicide rate of 20.2 per 100,000 marked a historic high for the Army, and for the first time since the Vietnam War era it surpassed the overall US rate for people of similar ages and backgrounds: 19.5 per 100,000 in 2005, the latest year for which the statistic is available. It marks a jump from the Army’s rate of 12.7 per 100,000 in 2005, 15.3 in 2006 and 16.8 in 2007.br /About 30 percent of the soldiers who committed suicide were deployed overseas, and 78 percent of them were on their first deployment. About 35 percent took their lives after deployment. The majority, 53 percent, did so within a year of returning.br /The number of suicides in Afghanistan, which had ranged from none to two a year, increased to seven last year, corresponding to an increase in anxiety and exposure to combat.br /Our nation is at war!!! We need to grow our military so that our soldiers have the opportunity to unwind when they’re home. This will be good for their mental health and the health of their families. Continuing to abuse the few brave Americans who do volunteer for military service is the wrong answer for America—Freedom isn’t free; everyone should help pay the price.

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