“Suicide Has Been Deadlier Than Combat for the Military,” a November 2 op-ed by Carol Giacomo of the NY Times editorial board, tried to accent the positive (“The Pentagon has made strides in helping those in need”), but the facts she laid out are devastating:
More than 45,000 veterans and active-duty service members have killed themselves in the past six years. That is more than 20 deaths a day — in other words, more suicides each year than the total American military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The latest Pentagon figures show the suicide rate for active-duty troops across all service branches rose by over a third in five years, to 24.8 per 100,000 active-duty members in 2018. Those most at risk have been enlisted men under 30.
The data for veterans is also alarming. In 2016, veterans were one and a half times more likely to kill themselves than people who hadn’t served in the military, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Among those ages 18 to 34, the rate went up nearly 80 percent from 2005 to 2016. The risk nearly doubles in the first year after a veteran leaves active duty, experts say.
The Pentagon this year also reported on military families, estimating that in 2017 there were 186 suicide deaths among military spouses and dependents.
The Pentagon’s spin, according to Giacomo:
Military officials note that the suicide rates for service members and veterans are comparable to the general population after adjusting for the military’s demographics — predominantly young and male.
Translation: The whole society is losing hope, especially the young men, so don’t blame us for sending them to war. “Comparable,” BTW, does not mean “the same as.” In this instance, the name “Defense Department” actually applies.