Suicides among U.S. military members have spiked this year, with an average of one suicide a day — the highest rate so far during a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to new Pentagon figures, 154 military service members committed suicide during the first 155 days of this year. During the same period, ending June 3, 136 U.S. troops died in combat in Afghanistan, according to icasualties.org, a website that tracks combat casualties.
The upsurge in suicides comes after the military suicide rate leveled off in 2010 and 2011. Although most Army suicides are of soldiers who have not deployed to war zones, Army studies have found that multiple combat tours are a high risk factor for suicide. Other factors include post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, marriage and financial stress, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Military suicide rates soared in 2009 before tapering off as the military began instituting programs encouraging service members to seek help for mental health issues, including suicide, and expanding treatment options.