WASHINGTON – The rate of suicide among military troops increased to its highest level in five years, according to a report released Thursday by the Pentagon.
The rate of suicide among active-duty troops was 24.8 per 100,000 people in 2018. In 2017, that figure was 21.9 per 100,000 troops. Five years ago, the suicide rate among troops was 18.5 per 100,000 service members.
The Pentagon attributed the overall spike in the rate to small increases in suicides across all the services. The military’s suicide rate compares with 18.2 people per 100,000 for all Americans ages 17 to 59. The report maintains that, adjusting for age and gender, the military’s rate is roughly the same as American society.
In August, the Pentagon released a more limited report that listed the total number of suicides for 2018. The 325 suicide deaths recorded for the year represented an increase of 40 compared with 2017. The increase was driven by a 25% increase in the Army and a 15% increase in the Marine Corps. That report did not estimate the rate of suicide by service nor did it include demographic data.
Among the report’s findings:
- Among active-duty troops, the Marine Corps had the highest rate with 31.4 suicides per 100,000 Marines. The Army had 24.8 suicides per 100,000 soldiers, the Navy had 20.7 suicides per 100,000 sailors and the Air Force had 18.5 suicides per 100,000 airmen. The suicide rate for the Army National Guard was 30.6 suicides per 100,000 guardsmen.
- Troops who died by suicide were mostly enlisted, under the age of 30, male and died by firearm.
- Among active-duty troops, firearms accounted for 60% of suicide deaths.
The Pentagon plans to tailor its approach to suicide prevention by focusing on young enlisted troops and the National Guard.
Gen. David Berger, the Marine Corps commandant, said in a statement that Marines need to consider seeking help for mental health issues a routine matter.
”Just as we talk about physical fitness, marksmanship, training and education – Marines must also be comfortable discussing life’s struggles, mental wellness and suicide,” Berger said.
Ryan McCarthy, the acting Army secretary, called the report “disheartening and disappointing.”
“Seeking help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength,” McCarthy said. “All of us are responsible for the care and safekeeping of our teammates and their families, and for being there for one another and encouraging those in need to get help.”
Read more at USAToday.com.