As many as 13 soldier suicides in March
(MILITARY TIMES) That would bring 2009’s total to 56, Army reports
None of the March cases under investigation have been confirmed, but about 90 percent of deaths involved in such investigations typically are ruled to be suicides.
The March total marks a decrease in suicides compared with the first two months of the year.
As many as 24 suicides were reported in January, but on March 4 officials removed one case because it was determined that the soldier was no longer on active duty when he died. Of the 23 remaining cases, 14 are confirmed suicides; nine are pending a determination.
Eight soldiers killed themselves in February, and the deaths of 10 others were still being investigated. Since the Army initially reported its February numbers, two other deaths also have come under investigation as possible suicides.
In all, 56 confirmed and suspected suicides have been reported across the Army since Jan. 1. Of the 56, 22 are confirmed suicides, 34 are pending.
According to data from the Army, all 13 suspected suicides from March involved male soldiers.
The Army has charged Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli with the service’s suicide prevention efforts, introduced new training materials, and ordered stand-downs and chain-teach sessions in an effort to curb suicide numbers that have risen steadily for four years.
As many as 143 soldier suicides were reported in 2008, the fourth year in a row the Army has seen an increase in suicides, and leaders have said factors such as the stress of deployments and personal relationships played a role in the deaths.
But Chiarelli also has said that the cause of the mounting suicides is not so clear-cut.
About a third of the soldiers who committed suicide in 2008 had no deployment experience, a third killed themselves while deployed overseas, and the rest had deployed before but were home at the time of their deaths.
In addition, the percentage of suicides among soldiers with multiple deployments was much smaller than among those with one deployment, and about 50 percent of the 143 soldiers who killed themselves in 2008 had sought help from mental health care providers.
Of the 143 cases, 128 were enlisted soldiers; 41 were in combat arms military occupational specialties; 85 were married; 134 were men; 110 were white.
“The Army’s charter is more about improving the physical, mental and spiritual health of our soldiers and their families than solely focusing on suicide prevention,” Chiarelli said in an April 10 statement. “If we do the first, we are convinced that the second will happen.”
Chiarelli recently completed an eight-day suicide prevention trip that included visits to six major Army posts. In his travels and in discussions with the media, Chiarelli has emphasized eliminating the stigma attached to seeking mental health care.
“Any soldier, from private to general, may need help at some time in their Army career,” he said. “Seeking that help, without fear of stigma, has to become second nature in our Army community; it has to become part of our culture.”
BY THE NUMBERS
In March, 13 soldiers’ deaths were suspected to be suicides, pending confirmation.
• All were male
• Six were married, seven were single
• Three were deployed when they died
• 11 were enlisted, ranging in rank from E-1 through E-7
• Of the two officers, one was a chief warrant officer 2, the other a first lieutenant
• Two had deployed three times, three had deployed twice, six had deployed once and two had never deployed