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Army Suicides Likely Surpass Combat Deaths in January

When an Army official says "This is terrifying. We do not know what's going on," there's a problem. It may be looking at the grimmest suicide statistics yet. If the seven confirmed suicides plus 17 pending cases are compared to the 16 combat deaths in January, it seems the Army's previous fear may be reality: more deaths by suicide than combat.

Col. Kathy Platoni, the Army's chief psychologist, cites Winter weather for the sudden rise, but with four suicides last January, that seems tangential at best. More likely, she says, the culprit is multiple deployments, disrupted mental-health care, and the stigma attached to taking antidepressants and seeking therapy.

After record suicide numbers in 2008 (128), the Army is taking more precautions. It will soon begin screening all soldiers to identify those at risk for suicide. A program launching this month will help soldiers recognize suicide signs and employ intervention methods, and another in the Spring will focus on prevention. New training will also prepare soldiers and families to cope with war before, during, and after deployment.

While encouraging, these steps seem so basic and obvious, I do wonder what they did before.


Join The Conversation
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
On a different perspective, isn't it nice to know that combat-related deaths have dropped markedly? I think that's a good sign. I agree with hypno, war is he77, and we need to make sure our soldiers are taken care of, even if they don't show signs of ptsd.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
When ever I read stories like this I can't help but feel my heart grow heavy and the brim of my eyes pool with sorrow for these people. This just goes to show that even being trained in the greatest toughest most formidable military in the world that with all the little tweaks & manipulations that one goes through to harden themselves against the horrors of War God/Creation did not design us to carry such a burden in our hearts. The mental anguish of combat & War has not only sent many to take their own lives but sent countless numbers into mental hospitals, the streets and in many cases right back home waiting to for that mental trigger to set it off. I've mentioned it before but I find it so shameful that a country that claims to have so much pride in its military can be so dismal in our care of those whom we ask so much of. We need to do better.
Jillness Jillness 8 years
Wack, that is so sad. I wish I could give you a big hug right now. Thank you so much for sharing such personal details to give us all a better understanding. Your story has really moved me.
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
I can attest that the VA hospital in Fresno is ran properly. Problem with them is that they are always full. Our hospital cannot transfer to their hospital ever. And they don't have a cardiac unit. Actually Wack, had they done their job, they should have transferred your father to another facility, because most VA hospitals don't have cardiac expertise. The problem with them being full is that they force them to stay at other hospitals, but never pay. We have to write off their entire stay. But other than that I have had pleasant experiences at the Fresno VA. My GP was treated there for 40+ years. He died in a nursing home at the age of 93.
Lukin Lukin 8 years
Wackdoodle, your story makes me so sad. It seems like all of these men and women fall through the cracks in the system. The Army (and other branches of the military) shouldn't be trying to find excuses or ways to lessen the impact of the statistics; they should be looking for ways to prevent them.
wackdoodle wackdoodle 8 years
Well hausfrau he wants to go and the recruiters wants credit for enlisting him that's the problem. But I just got off the phone with my sister and she finally had a good long talk with him and he agreed to postpone enlisting for at least 18 months or more to see if my sister can beat this cancer or not. Once she filled him in on the current changes in her condition he agreed that this wouldn't be the best time to enlist. As I said he would make a great soldier but he needs to learn to accept his emotions and understand and work with them. Now he's just too volatile. As far as PTSD and the care for Vet once they return from deployment and are discharged from the military I agree not enough is being done to help soldiers recover from their experiences and the medical care that they recieve now in many cases in sub-par and that breaks my heart. I've said before I was born a Navy brat. My dad had been in over 27 years by the time I was born. From '56 to the mid- 60s he was cool. Deployed to Japan, North Korea, South America and even weirdly went to Cuba on deployment but once Viet Nam started he was deployed early on since he was a SeaBee and they are the builders of runways and barracks etc. His first deployment he seemed ok on return according to my mom (I wasn't even conceived yet). Second deployment something happened - something very bad and my dad and his platoon where sprayed with Agent Orange in the process. My dad came back and my mom said he was very different- emotionally raw. He was deployed again for a third time or so my mom thought but before my dad got on the C-130 for the Phillipines or whereever they were island hopping to - his CO pulled him aside after my dad had ordered his troop aboard. My dad's CO spoke to my dad and looked him over and sent him to the infirmary. Once there the base CO and doctors questioned him and realized something was deeply wrong with my dad. So rather than putting him on the plane for the third time they sent him to a mental hospital and kept him there for nearly a year. My dad wrote letters to my mom as if he was in Viet Nam and the Navy told my mom he was in Viet Nam but he wasn't. He was either in Walter Reed or a private institution receiving psychiatric treatment for severe depression and Post-traumatic stress disorder. And that was in mid-1969. Eventually they felt he was better and they sent him to Hawaii to meet my mom as if he was on leave. That was 1970 I was conceived during that trip then my dad was actually deployed back to his troop in Viet Nam after that. Over the years after Viet Nam my dad secretly got help from the navy doctor's for his health and mental health but his greatest help came from other vets. But I will say that as he got sicker later in life (and the same goes for my B-i-l- the dude w/ the sunglasses in my icon) he refused to go to VA Hospitals. He was convinced that the care was sub-par and that they would surely kill him with bad medical treatment. My b-i-l and numerous other vets I meet through them had the same fear of VA hospitals. Sure enough my dad was right - he developed Parkinson's disease and congestive heart failure and a pituary tumor. Before my sister or I could get to him the assisted living home where he had decided to live had sent him to a VA hospital in SoCal. This VA hospital is horrible - it has a high death rate for things that shouldn't kill people. And sure enough these folks there told us they were doing this and that for my dad who they say had pnuemonia although they did no xrays or any tests to determine that. My dad actually had a bladder/urinary tract infection. They failed to administer in medications to him - even failed to give him his medications for Parkinson's or the congestive heart failure. Heck they didn't even give him food or water or an IV. They just sent in interns and let them watch my dad slowly drown in fluid and go septic. My dad developed urosepsis and was drowning in fluid. One night his girlfriend was at the hospital with him and noticed that he was sweating bad and was having trouble breathing. They INTERNS went in and looked at my dad - they listened to his struggling speeding heart and decided to slow his heart down by administering a shot directly into his heart. They failed to read his chart to see that he had congestive heart failure, a history of heart attacks and quad-bypass. Without consulting the attending- the interns adminstered a lethal dose of medication to my dad and stopped his heart right there in his room. He was conscious - my dad's girlfriend said he was crying and looked absolutely panicked (he couldn't speak because they hadn't given him his parkinson's meds so he was locked up). Once the interns realized that they stopped his heart completely they tried to restart it- they broke his ribs and punctured his lung. They tried to shock him but they had already killed him. Then one of these stupid VA interns picked up the phone at 10 pm on a Sunday and called my voicemail at my job. This moron left a voicemail at my office job on a Sunday night. "Uh, hi Miss Burris, sorry to call you so late I guess your not at work now. I just wanted to let you know that your dad just died. So...umm, well have a good day. Goodnight." I remember that freaking call. I remember every freaking paper authorizing treatments for my dad that the VA hospital failed to actually due for my father. And I remember when my sister went down to the hospital to see my dad's body and she grabbed his chart and read what the interns had charted (she's a RN) and she freaked out because the chart showed that they had in two weeks done absolutely nothing. Not given him a single med, not done a xray or test. They did nothing but administer a huge dose of a medication that is not suppose to be given directly into the heart especially into someone who has a damaged heart. She photocopied my dad's chart in the VA nurse station before they realized that she shouldn't be there. She took the chart to my dad's non-VA cardiologist and to the LA County Coroner's Office and both agreed the Hospital had killed my dad. Two weird things - my dad said he wouldn't survive to see the year 2000 but he died 9/24/2000- the same day my great nephew was being born. And two weeks before my dad went to this VA Hospital one of my sister's friends father checked into the hospital because he felt weak. They said he had a tooth infection again without examing him and checked him in. After a few days - he got antibiotics- he wasn't any better and he was actually starting to bleed from his mouth, eyes, nose and other places. They couldn't figure out why. Suddenly after about 4 days in the hospital the ran some blood tests. The man had leukemia not a toothache. He never claimed to have a toothache - he said his mouth was bleeding whenever he ate or brushed his teeth. A week before my dad died in the same hospital - my sister's friends father died from leukemia there - two rooms down from my dad. Bitter - hell yes. Obliviously the laughing gas has worn off. Now I;m upset again and want to blow up that VA Hospital in SoCal.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
so wack he should def. be able to get out of it if he doesn't want to go! :)
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
That is why we need stricter regulations allowing people into the military. The USMC is one of the more stricter sectors and they are about to make their recruiting goal nearly 2 years early so they are turning away people left and right.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
And actually I know exactly what its like. PTSD often is used as a blanket diagnosis. Many of these people have issues before even coming into the military. A lot of times it's not the combat stress that causes it, its the combat stress that exacerbates it.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
Myst as someone who is trained in suicide prevention within the military I can tell you my reasons are right.
Myst Myst 8 years
You damn right it's sad and it's even worse for our veterans. Many former soldiers have to wait at least 6 months for their benefits to kick in and for some it's even longer. Our government took the longest time to acknowledge that many soldiers suffered from PSTD and other brain traumas during and after combat. Many veterans have lost their jobs after coming back from deployment even though they jobs are supposed to be guaranteed. Our Veteran's Affair office is a mess...and recruitment is a problem as they target those who come from lower income families and many who sign up don't fully grasp the full scale of what they got themselves into and I can't tell you the number of times I've seen soldier try to go AWOL when my parents were stationed back in the states at Parris Island.
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
could also be lack of support of what they are doing. If you saw in the news people accused you of air raiding villages and raping civilians, wouldn't that make you depressed?
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
But even when not in a time of war, I know suicides are high in the military. My husband was on subs and he had know quite a few people who had done so. Where in my private life I have only know 1. Even day to day actions in the military are more stressful than civilian life. The bad officers (not all) take any opportunity to yell at enlisted and the enlisted can't really do anything for fear of being punished. It's like being on Hell's kitchen for 6 years.... No thank you
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
This is so sad.
Myst Myst 8 years someone who grew up with military parents and have been around Marines and Army men all my life I can most assuredly tell your reasons are not the most common for suicides. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is the most common reason for these suicide. Soldiers see things in combat that would make even the strongest person weak in the knees. Each time a soldier is deploy he/she undergo psychological evaluation and when they come back they must go through it. My father is a Sergeant Major in the Marines and has fought in Gulf War, was deployed to Bosnia in '93, been deployed to Iraq twice and once to Afghanistan. You can not imagine the stress and heartache that we've had to go through each time he's come back and he's one of the strongest men I know This number isn't even half of the number of war veterans who have killed themselves since the Iraq/Afghanistan war. If you guys want more accurate information you need to go to It's a non-partisan run website by veterans of the two war.
wackdoodle wackdoodle 8 years
Civilian suicide stats for last year were 1 in 20 people. For the military as a whole 1 in 19. My sister is going to speak to him privately and ask him to postpone his enlistment for at least 18 months maybe 24 which is about how long the doctors are saying she'll survive at this point. She cannot bare the thought of him being elsewhere when she takes a turn for the worse and of him beating himself up and hurting and not being able to get to her side to say goodbye. Plus it would just be too much added stress on her - the constant worry. If he waits and goes to State University for two years (he's already got one year at Junior college done plus some Advanced Placement credits) he can go into officer training when he goes in rather than being a regular enlisted man. But he's so consumed with the Marines, Marines, Marines and guns, guns, guns that he wants in now and wants he gun now.
momma-tikita momma-tikita 8 years
Wow wackdoodle what a story. I wish your nephew the best with whatever happens.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
Unfortunately I think part of this is because the Army has loosened its standards to a dismal level. This line - " It will soon begin screening all soldiers to identify those at risk for suicide" shouldn't it be doing that already? The military needs to be more selective. Thanks to a down economy now maybe they can be moreso.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
I wonder how the stats of military suicides stack up to civilian suicides. The most common reason for suicide in the military is problem with loved one (wife leaving, breakup, etc) and the second is career problems.
wackdoodle wackdoodle 8 years
I've been following these numbers with much interest. I'm waiting for the Marines to put out their numbers for January 2009. My nephew has decided rather stupidly to suddenly enlist in the USMC even though he has serious emotional distress issues and a suicide attempt in his recent history. Apparently the recruiter told him to just "not list" that suicide attempt on his application for enlistment. I called the CO of the recruitment office and asked if that's their policy to encourage enlistees to lie on their applications so they could meet their monthly quota? He said that he wasn't aware that the recruiter had told my nephew this and that he would speak to my nephew about this issue. I advised the CO that my nephew would eventually make a great soldier however first he needs counseling to deal with his grief and anger over his dad's sudden death, and his grandfather's sudden death after that then the boy tried to kill himself because his girlfriend broke up with him and now the new girlfriend is upset that he's enlisting and threatening to break up then top it off that the boyo's mother is dying of breast cancer and they are so eager to put a automatic weapon in his hands when he's already tried to off himself. And moreover they want him to lie about it which when the truth comes out after he's in the Marines could result in him being dishonorably discharged and serving jail time? No. I told the CO that my nephew has a full free ride to attend any UC or State University in California because of his dad's injuries and disability from his time in the Army. And that he knows that the GI Bill will not pay for his education after he gets out of the Marines, if he gets out, and that my nephew feels that the recruiters are questioning his manhood when they say that he should "man up and enlist now cause college will always be there after his enlistment is up". Absolutely, crazy. Last year the Marines had its highest rate of suicide at 44. I fear that if my nephew were to enlist at this time by the end of the year or even during Basic he will become another suicide statistic for the Marines. I'm rambling again - just had dental work and I hyped up on nitrous like that little boy in the youtube clip.
momma-tikita momma-tikita 8 years
wow. very sad.
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 8 years
This is unbelievably sad.
em1282 em1282 8 years
Such sad news.
tiabia tiabia 8 years
How very sad this is.
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