More soldiers took their own lives than died in combat during 2012, new Department of Defense figures show. The Army’s suicide rate has climbed by 9 percent since the military branch launched its suicide-prevention campaign in 2009.Through November, 177 active-duty soldiers had committed suicide compared to 165 during all of 2011 and 156 in 2010. In all of 2012, 176 soldiers were killed in action — all while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom, according to DOD.
Army suicides have increased by at least 54 percent since 2007 when there were 115 — a number the Washington Post then called “an all-time record.” An Army spokesman said Wednesday it is uncertain if 177 marks a new annual high with December numbers still to come, or if suicides have ever outpaced combat deaths in a single year, because the Army has not always tracked suicides.
Some Army families who recently lost members to suicide criticize the branch for failing to aggressively shake a culture in which soldiers believe they’ll be deemed weak and denied promotion if they seek mental health aid. They also blame Army leaders for focusing more heavily on weeding out emotionally troubled soldiers to artificially suppress the branch’s suicide stats versus embracing and helping members who are exhibiting clear signs of trouble.