Suicides skyrocket among US soldiers

This is nothing about which I have any knowledge or expertise, but it seems important.  Salon has run a series about it which IMO deserves attention.  Here it is, with their 2 follow-up reports.  At the end you will see links for more information about this problem, and other posts on the FM site about our men and women in uniform.

(1)  “Death in the USA: The Army’s fatal neglect“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Slate, 9 February 2009 — Introductio tot he series.

(2)  “The Death Dealers took my life!“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 9 February 2009 — “Adam Lieberman tried to kill himself when he returned from Iraq. Only then did the Army take his mental health seriously.”  Excerpt included below.

(3)  “‘Kill yourself. Save us the paperwork’“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 10 February 2009 — “Pfc. Ryan Alderman, now deceased, sought medical help from the Army. He got a fistful of powerful drugs instead.”

(4)  “Mark Waltz, Kenneth Lehman, Chad Barrett“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 10 February 2009 — “The details of three more deaths that might have been prevented among Fort Carson-based soldiers.”

(5)  “‘You’re a pussy and a scared little kid’“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 12 February 2009 — “John Needham returned from Iraq, suffering from combat stress. If he had received proper care, would he be standing trial for murder?”

(6)  “‘”That young man never should have come into the Army’“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 13 February 2009 — “Kenneth Eastridge had PTSD before he ever donned a uniform or did two tours of duty in Iraq. Now he’s in prison for his part in the murder of a fellow soldier.”

(7)  “Coming home: The conclusion“, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 14 February 2009 — “In the final article in Salon’s series, we ask what President Obama will do about the rise of suicide and murder among U.S. soldiers returning from combat.”

(8)  “Army says deployments not linked to suicides“, Alex Koppelman, Salon, 5 March 2009 — “The Army released frightening new suicide statistics Thursday, but suggested the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have little to do with this alarming trend.”

(9)  “Soldier suicides skyrocket“, Mark Benjamin, Salon, 19 March 2009 — “But a tepid Senate hearing on Wednesday, with no testimony from lower-ranking combat troops from Iraq or Afghanistan, does little to explain why.”  See the “for more information” section at the end for a link to the hearing’s presentations.

Excerpts

The Death Dealers took my life!“, By Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna, Salon, 9 February 2009 — “Adam Lieberman tried to kill himself when he returned from Iraq. Only then did the Army take his mental health seriously.”  Excerpt:

The day before Halloween 2008, Army Pvt. Adam Lieberman swallowed handfuls of prescription pain pills and psychotropic drugs. Then he picked up a can of black paint and smeared onto the wall of his room in the Fort Carson barracks what he thought would be his last words to the world.  “I FACED THE ENEMY AND LIVED!” Lieberman painted on the wall in big, black letters. “IT WAS THE DEATH DEALERS THAT TOOK MY LIFE!”

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Soldiers called Lieberman’s unit, the 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, the Death Dealers. Adam suffered serious mental health problems after a year of combat in Iraq. The Army, however, blamed his problems on a personality disorder, anxiety disorder or alcohol abuse — anything but the war. Instead of receiving treatment from the Army for his war-related problems, Adam faced something more akin to harassment. He was punished and demoted for his bad behavior, but not treated effectively for its cause. The Army’s fervent tough-guy atmosphere discouraged Adam from seeking help. Eventually he saw no other way out. Now, in what was to be his last message, he pointed the finger at the Army for his death.

It would be a voice from beyond the grave, he thought, screaming in uppercase letters. The last words, “THAT TOOK MY LIFE!” tilted down the wall in a slur, as the concoction of drugs seeped into Adam’s brain.

Late last month the Army released figures showing the highest suicide rate among soldiers in three decades. The Army says 128 soldiers committed suicide in 2008 with another 15 still under investigation. “Why do the numbers keep going up?” Army Secretary Pete Geren said at a Pentagon news conference Jan. 29. “We can’t tell you.” The Army announced a $50 million study to figure it out.

It is not just the suicides spiraling out of control. Salon assembled a sample of 25 cases of suicide, prescription drug overdoses or murder involving Fort Carson soldiers over the past four years, by no means a comprehensive list. In-depth study of 10 of those cases revealed a pattern of preventable deaths. In most cases, the deaths seemed avoidable if the Army had better handled garden-variety combat stress reactions.

Interviews, Army documents and medical records suggest that Adam might not have attempted suicide if he had received a proper diagnosis and treatment. His suicide attempt seems avoidable. But the Army’s mistreatment extended well into its aftermath.

For more information

Official sources:

  1. Suicide Prevention Program Update“, CDR Aaron D. Werbel PhD, HQ USMC, 26 January 2009
  2. High-impact training to address Corps’ suicide rate“, HQ USMC, 19 March 2008 — See the following entry for the video.
  3. Suicide Stand Down Video“, produced by the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
  4. Testimony on the incidence of suicides of United States Service members and initiatives within DoD  to prevent military suicides, Senate Armed Services Committee, 18 March 2009 — By 8 senior officers and A. Kathryn Power (Director, Center of Mental Health Services, Department of Health and Human Services).

Articles in the general media:

  1. Suicide rate rises among airmen“, USA Today, 24 October 2004
  2. Suicides in Marine Corps Rise by 29%“, LA Times, 25 January 2005 — “Fast Pace of Operations Are Believed to Contribute”
  3. Marine suicide rate up, prompting more prevention training“, LA Times, 28 January 2009 — Commanders plan two-hour sessions for all their troops, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
  4. Army sees sharp rise in suicide rate“, LA Times, 30 January 2009 — “It’s the highest in 30 years. Military officials say in a report that prevention efforts are inadequate.”
  5. Leaders testify in D.C. on high suicide rates“, Marine Corps Times, 18 March 2009 — Report on the Senate hearing; see the previous section for a link to the hearing’s presentations.
  6. A General’s Personal Battle“, Wall Street Journal, 28 March 2009 — “The military is facing a sharp spike in suicides, and Maj. Gen. Mark Graham is leading the fight to reduce them. His mission is close to the heart: His own son, a young ROTC cadet, killed himself six years ago.”

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest are:

Posts about America’s men and women in uniform:

  1. Washington’s Gift, 24 December 2007 — A summary of and link to an article by the author Thomas Fleming, published on the Opinion Page of the Wall Street Journal.
  2. A crisis at the beginning of the American experiment, 27 December 2008 — Looking at the problems looming before us, it is easy to forget those of equal or greater danger that we have surmounted in the past.
  3. An effective way to support our Troops: help the Blue Star Mothers of America, 8 June 2008
  4. Time: “America’s Medicated Army”, 12 June 2008
  5. Stratfor: “The U.S. Air Force and the Next War”, 13 June 2008
  6. “VA testing drugs on war veterans” – The Washington Times and ABC News, 18 June 2008
  7. Support the USO – more effective than a bumper sticker, 5 July 2008 — Another way to support our troops, more effective than a bumper sticker.
  8. Is post-traumatic stress disorder more common now than in past wars?, 17 July 2008
  9. One of the best geopolitical posts of the year, IMO, 12 August 2008 — “War is the great auditor of institutions”
  10. A lesson for America – and an inspiration, 13 March 2009

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22 thoughts on “Suicides skyrocket among US soldiers

  1. When I told my dad, a Vietnam veteran with PTSD I was joining the military he said “Any branch but the Army, son. They’ll use you up, send you home, get you out, and never keep their promises to you. Please promise me you won’t join the Army.” He’s dying of the south east Asian strain of Hepatitis C, and it took a court order before the VA would pay for the treatment. I’m shocked, but not surprised by these articles.

  2. i can vouch for this hazardous mental problem our leadership has. i’m a graduate of a chronic pain management class and one of the things they teach us is the life cycle of a chronic injury. leaders are initially supportive but as time goes on they start to punish you for your injury. the army is trying to change this culture but it is tough and it may never happen.

  3. I think that you should not be so quick to take the word of Salon (unless melodrama is your forté – I am a new reader).  It seems important that you not carry their water:

    * “Smear campaign“, Washington Times, 20 January 2008
    * “A CBS News Investigation Uncovers A Suicide Rate for Veterans Twice That of Other Americans“, Volokh Conspiracy, 14 November 2007
    * “Military Suicide Study Mystery“, Steven Milloy, Junk Science, 14 June 2007
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I am grateful that our Armed Services do not share your casual attitude to this problem.

    Perhaps you did not see the last of the sources listed in this post (I have tweaked the text to give it greater emphasis), the published testimony of military leaders at the 19 March 2009 hearing of the Subcommittee on Personnel of the Senate Armed Services Committee: “To receive testimony on the incidence of suicides of United States Servicemembers and initiatives within the Department of Defense to prevent military suicides.” I am still reviewing this material, but have not found any testimony in it from someone who shares your view that this is not a problem.

    I have expanded the “for more information” section, adding both government and mainstream media articles.

  4. Sounds like they’re appropriately trained soldiers. An effective military brutalizes its soldiers, uses a combination of shame and guilt to motivate them,, cuts the people who can’t continue in that environment, and views the enemy as sub-human.

    In a democracy, an effective military force is necessary, and the things required to maintain disciplined warriors are contra to the things needed to survive in a polite, egalitarian society. They volunteered to become disposable people, one would hope that the ones sending them to war understand this, and do not do so lightly.

    One would be wrong, unfortunately.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s an … interesting … view of our troops. I’ll let it pass without any other comment.

  5. Somewhat ancillary, but relevant to military culture (of which I have never been a part, despite my chosen posting name). I recommend Fred Reed’s column “Uncle Sam Wants You“. Reed, a former Marine, concludes that enlistment is a bad choice. Why? At least in part because in Vietnam, “There were too many ticket-punchers. Officers who won’t take the same risks their troops take are. . .I think the word is ‘cowards.’ Guess what generation of officers is now reaching the top at the Pentagon. You don’t want this crew commanding your kid.”

    I wonder whether the institutional malaise Reed observed is producing the environment which the referenced articles describe. If so, and maybe even if not, I’d argue that it’s a good time to reinstate the draft. I’d block loopholes which have allowed middle and upper class kids to escape such service. I suspect we’d see a lot more sanity in our foreign engagements.

    Regarding the comment #4, it would be hard to imagine a more untrue, egregious and despicable calumny of our armed forces. Our services are far from perfect, but this sort of libel is surreal.

  6. I read a interesting study on killing, you suffer from guilt if you are unable to kill (protect your friends, do your job), the act of killing in a battle field causes severe mental distress to normal humans(you have broken most civilian and religious injuntions), most never fully recover.

    Most worryingly, the very act of mentally preparing yourself to kill, is almost as damaging, if you spend a year ready to kill its very hard to climb down from that. Other branches in the combat zone seemed to have far fewer problem, mine clearers, doctors, medics, ect, mostly escaped with far fewer scars, but they weren’t there to kill, but to save.

    Until modern conditioning methods in the army (post 45) most troops would not shoot to kill, unless in a crew serviced weapon. They literally were unable to bring themselves to do it. Over 90% of modern troops now shoot to kill, or are prepared to do so. Its a wonder that so many mange to carry on.

    Warrior Science Group — A partnership between the Grossman’s (Lt.Colonel, US Army, retired) Killology Research Group and Bruce Siddle’s PPTC. (PPCT consists of 50,000 use of force instructors, certified in 48 states and 18 nations).
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    FM Note: Here is an analysis of Grossman’s claims on the website of the Police Policy Studies Council. Pretty brutal.

  7. All this is even more despicable, when you consider that the National Guard is being used in this war. We are eating our last ditch defense force.

  8. Skyrocketing means increasing sharply. I see nothing you cite that indicates that this is the case.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: So you “see nothing” suggesting “increasing sharply” in the following.
    * reports with detailed numbers about the problem.
    * expert testimony about the problem, and their efforts to respond.
    * extensive annecodal evidence about the problem and our inadequate response so far.
    * general media articles about the problem.

    What can we say in reply but “what a charming comment”. Fortunately this material shows that the leadership of the US military does not appear to share your casual attitude to these trends.

  9. This from ‘stupid’: “In a democracy, an effective military force is necessary, and the things required to maintain disciplined warriors are contra to the things needed to survive in a polite, egalitarian society.”

    I am not sure if ‘democracy’ is the context, but as per the Montreal-males thread a few days ago, we do live in a more ‘feminized’ or ‘safe’ society. (Hardly surprising given there are 100 times more of us in most cities than a few generations ago.) Furthermore, current conflicts involve far more killing of civilians in civilian residential zones, versus soldier against soldier in the field.

    Although it is the soldier’s duty to kill when necessary, it is not construed as murder. However, extended combat in civilian zones makes the line between killing and murder hard to discern and thus the need to demonize ordinary people that much more necessary.

    Having entered this highly confusing hell realm for extended periods in urban, otherwise ‘normal’ context, it is hardly surprising that soldiers might have a very hard time returning to normal civilian life in essentially similar contexts. If they feel in their hearts that they have become murderers, this must be very, very hard to live with.

    Put another way, personally I don’t think I could handle it.

  10. FM Note: Here is an analysis of Grossman’s claims on the website of the Police Policy Studies Council. Pretty brutal.

    I did’ent say anything about his views on video games (addicted) or violence in greater socity, just on how a person reacts when engaged in acts of violence against other people.

    That wasn’t an analysis, people don’t shout when doing analysis THIS SOUNDED LIKE SOMEONE WHO DOESENT LIKE GROSSMAN VERY MUCH, I guess.
    It also seem to rant on about the Liberal media..and the 2nd amendment, which makes me wonder wheater they just have the wrong end of the stick.

    Who are the Police Policy training…http://www.theppsc.org/Information/Intro-M.htm

    For a second I thought they were something to do with the police..

  11. electrophoresis – by your thinking things must have been better 18 months ago when much larger numbers of soldiers were dying from AQ than suicide. The reductions in combat related casualties amongst US troops should be considered a huge success. So successful that suicides are now the number three cause of death amongst troops (illness and motor vehicles accidents).

    That said, lets not be so naive about some of these narratives. This is the continuation of the crazy Rambo Nam vet narrative. Suicide rates for the services are less than US general population when normalized for age and gender. The Army has recognized suicides are a leading cause of soldiers deaths and is investing resources to reducing it. It is a major positive cultural change to say its now okay to seek help. It could simply discharge and be done with it as during the days of a conscripted force.

  12. The Salon article struck me as both over-heated and over-stated. Based on the general media sources cited by FM, it would seem that the peculiarity here is that, while military suicide rates may be increasing, they have also been historically well below the average for similar age groups, generally. Some of the comments here are, at minimum, jumping to conclusion as to the reasons for such “increases.” A reversion to a broader norm is a complicated signal, and any interpretation of its causes, IMHO, needs a lot of support. From the general media articles cited, please note:

    “The Marine Corps suffered a 29 percent spike in suicides last year, reaching the highest number in at least a decade…. Although last year’s suicide rate rose, it was still below the national average for a comparable civilian group, in keeping with an established pattern of suicide being lower in the U.S. military than in the civilian population.” — LA Times

    “Air Force officials have been mystified by the increase. Combat stress is not a likely culprit: The Air Force has few airmen in Iraq or Afghanistan, and none of the suicides occurred in a war zone, officials say. The deaths have come at bases across the United States and overseas.” — USA Today

    “At least 128 Army soldiers took their own lives last year — an estimated suicide rate of 20.2 per 100,000, a sharp increase from the 2007 rate of 16.8…. It marked the first time the Army rate has exceeded the national suicide rate for the corresponding population group — 19.5 per 100,000 — since the Pentagon began systematically tracking suicides nearly 30 years ago.” — LA Times

    That our military should care about these increases is a credit to their leadership, but I am very skeptical of reading too much into such a trend. I’d like to know about what is going on with such trends nationally, for starters. To suggest that it is the consequences of militarism is both naïve and wrong. Further, I am skeptical that military health care on such issues is any worse than similar care available to the population at large. Self-inflicted loss of life does not seem to be well understood, and many efforts at its prevention have proven futile.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I don’t understand what point you are attempting to make.

    (1) All these things are discussed in the reports to which I link. Why would you expect otherwise, as these are obvious question?

    (2) “To suggest that it is the consequences of militarism”
    What is the source of this theory? It’s bizarre, but I don’t recall it from these sources.

    (3) “Self-inflicted loss of life does not seem to be well understood, and many efforts at its prevention have proven futile.”
    That’s true of many illnesses. Remember to point that out to your doctor if you or a member of your family get such an illness. Why waste resources!

    Perhaps you can work this into a lecture for Verterans’ Groups and chapters of the Blue Star Mom’s.

  13. I’m a suicide prevention counselor and a [non-combat] veteran.

    From what I understand about military suicides, they occur less frequently than in the general population, even in war time. That said, most military personnel are not educated to recognize suicidal ideation in troops, nor equipped to intervene.

    Third, I have my doubts about the statistical validity of suicides in, or especially when attributed to, the military. Some are no doubt the result of seeing horrible events, but equally as many [or indeed more] may be due to breakups, homesickness, drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, etc.

    This: “When more soldiers in your army kill themselves than are killed by the enemy, something is terribly wrong.” strikes me as absurd on it’s face, for it means less of the enemy are killing our troops [a good thing, surely] than are killing themselves [which occurs, again, less on average than the general population].

    In no way do I think this a non-problem, but I do wonder why the stories are being pressed to such a degree and I do suspect ulterior motives in doing so.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Half of my references were to government sources. So let’s rephrase your last sentence. You “wonder why the military is responding pressing this to such a degree, and you suspect ulterior motives in doing so.” Sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it?

    Even you original statement is absurd, IMO. Facts are facts, and the motives of the people writing about them does not change their significance. Furthermore, I suspect that the answers to your doubts are in the reports listed here (or at least analysis of these issues).

  14. FM – I wrote “pressed” not “responding”, and meant that in the sense ‘being advertised’. That meaning is significantly different than the paraphrase you offer.

    Speaking towards motive, I believe, is a possible factor in the suicides themselves. One study waiting to be done is a comparison of popularity of a war and it’s veterans to suicide rates. We’ve enough wars to go by – WWII vs. Korea vs. Vietnam and Iraq veteran suicide rates can be compared, with a view toward determining whether the public’s attitudes towards the returning vets have any bearing on suicidality.

    Last, I’ve acknowledged fact where fact exists. I’m not disparaging the reporting of same, but am asking about motive. That is a valid concern.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I’ve changed the text in my reply from “responding” to “pressing”. It still looks odd. You — like most of these comments — ignore that the leadership of the Armed Services are disturbed by this as well. Are you questioning their motives? If not, why question the mtovies of civilians who report about this problem? Or is the discussion of motives just a way to kick sand in the air, chaff to cloud the issue?

    This is not just a problem of vets, but in-service people; that is the problem most of the articles cited at the end discuss.

  15. Fabius,
    I have serious reservations about this particular post and comments. And I am a veteran shot at by big qand small bullets and lost friends and had some in the Hanoi Hilton for years, came home and lead productive lives.

    1) I value your thinking mostly, but question the method here on this particular subject of writing a few lines, providing links, commenting mostly dismissably with your commenters then moving to next post. Serious subject, needing reflection for awhile. You by intent or not, in effect downplay

    2)Blogs are blogs, “handles/call signs” by all. In this case comments from “thumbupits” frankly aren’t relevant, who cares? Subject nature IMO requires identification of qualification to address – Doctor, parent, patient, combat – been there-done-that-scared, etc.

    3) That said, you’ve pretty much thrown those who do seem to have knowledge, under the buss, using “Salon” and refs as the “god” of all knowledge.

    4) Read Salon – appears to be honest intent BUT- they are the “media” no? My criteria for press is “Big Story” by Peter Braestrup. For any who haven’t read story of the Press and ’68 News coverage of Tet Offensive. He did not portray press as “bad guys” but rather flawed victims of their media type. Issue was THEY NEVER corrected results onmce true facts found out.

    5) Finally your diming off of Dave Grossman is poor research. I know him, exchange e-mails on reality based training and his work on killing by children is really worth looking into. The “put down by Tom Aveni” is very questionable. Did you look at Aveni’s credentials???? {See Ed’s correction to this in comment #18}

    Sorry for length but this serious subject requires diffeent approach than just throwing out Salon. Misinformation, rumor more possible than real story. OBTW is the nature of 4GW, no matter how we got there, a serious area of concern? Keep up the fight.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I don’t understand this comment.

    (1) “question the method here on this particular subject of writing a few lines, providing links…”

    It’s called reporting, giving links to a wide range of material about a subject. I don’t comment on things about which I know little, and don’t limit the subject matter to those few things about which I can provide analysis. Re: “writing a few lines” — the average Internet post is roughly 250 words; at 1200 words this is near the practical max (above which readership sharply declines).

    (2) “commenting mostly dismissably with your commenters”
    Pls give a specific example. I have dismissed the focus on guessing the motives of the author meme. Not only is this impossible for us (telephathy?), it is IMO irrelevant. Data is data. Esp when the post links to official data which cofirms much of the material in general media articles (which fact the above comments also ignore).

    (3) “Serious subject, needing reflection for awhile.”
    What do you mean? How is “reflection” done on in any article, print or Internet?

    (4) “That said, you’ve pretty much thrown those who do seem to have knowledge, under the buss, using “Salon” and refs as the “god” of all knowledge.”
    Please explain in what way I’ve done this. In the “offical sources” section I link to additional material. The study by Dr. Werbel and the testimony at the Senate hearings are IMO valuable and extensive supplemental information. The general media articles (going back to 2004) provide additional perspectives on this problem.

    (5) “Read Salon – appears to be honest intent BUT- they are the “media” no?”
    I have no idea what you are attempting to say here. It is a valid story, backed by extensive research. I do not share the apparently common preference for limiting one’s sources, which I suspect in practice means avoiding disturbing data and perspectives.

    (6) “Finally your diming off of Dave Grossman is poor research.”
    I like to show the contrary side of these things, as I’ve found that people are often unaware that there are two sides to issues. It’s SOP here.

    (7) “Did you look at Aveni’s credentials????”

    This is not my field, but Aveni’s background looks to me like that of a typical expert.
    * Aveni posted his bio here.
    * He’s widely cited in the media, including wire services, the Christian Science Monitor, Police Magazine (examples) and PoliceOne.com (examples).
    * He presents at professional organizations, such as 2006 conference of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Assn (ILEETA; see the conference program, and page 20 of The Rap Sheet, July/August 2006), and the 2009 Conference on the Use of Force in Law Enforcement (July 7-8, Washington DC, the program is here).

  16. Comment #9: FM replies: “So you ‘see nothing’ suggesting ‘increasing sharply’ in the following: ‘reports with detailed numbers about the problem.’

    Clearly, whether or not there is a “sharp increase” should be based on the numbers and nothing else. What numbers do you think imply a sharp increase? I see the Salon article refers only to the first couple months of ’09, an insufficient sample size. No need for sensationalism when addressing such a problem. ‘Steadily rising’ would do well enough.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I find it discouraging that so many comments are from people who apparently zoned out while reading the post, writing without reading the section “for more information” — despite its mention in the first paragraph. It’s often said that the average Internet post aprox 250 words, perhaps the attention span of the average Internet reader. So the posts on this site (1 – thousand words) might be too much for most. So be it. Let’s look at 3 of the additional 10 sources I cite.

    (1) Suicide Prevention Program Update“, CDR Aaron D. Werbel PhD, HQ USMC, 26 January 2009 — Per slide #2, USMC suicide rate per 100,000: 2006 12.9, 2007 16.5, 2008 19. While not statistically significant, two years of 26% annual rate of increase is disturbing. The 2004 jump might result from the initial deployments, and the current rise from the stress of repeated deployments. Only time will tell, but the USMC is wisely reacting now — rather than passively wait.

    (2) This was added to post: “A General’s Personal Battle“, Wall Street Journal, 28 March 2009 –An excerpt appears below in comment #20.

    (3) Army sees sharp rise in suicide rate“, LA Times, 30 January 2009 — Excerpt:

    The suicide rate among Army soldiers reached its highest level in three decades in 2008, military officials said Thursday in a report that pointed to the inadequacy of anti-suicide efforts undertaken in recent years. At least 128 Army soldiers took their own lives last year — an estimated suicide rate of 20.2 per 100,000, a sharp increase from the 2007 rate of 16.8.

    It marked the first time the Army rate has exceeded the national suicide rate for the corresponding population group — 19.5 per 100,000 — since the Pentagon began systematically tracking suicides nearly 30 years ago.

    The 2008 figure does not include 15 additional deaths under investigation that officials suspect were suicides.

    The accompanying graph to the LAT article shows that the number of Amry suicides has increase at an annual rate of 19% since 2004 — a double every 41 months. I wonder what rate Talisker would consider “sensational”, esp if his children were at risk?

  17. In comment #16 I questioned whether Fabius had questioned adequately the credentials of Mr. Aveni who in 2001 took issue with, it appears, anything and everything by LtCol Dave Grossman, author of “On Killing and On Combat.”

    Turns out my Mr. Aveni and his were different people, but both on staff at The Police Policy Studies Council. When opening the link to Aveni’s” argument, all I saw was “Aveni“ in large letters. Read through quickly and found the tone and format a little bizarre. Checked out the sight and noted, as did commenter Joey that this was no “official” police site, only one like many which discuss LE matters and offer consult/train services. (Indeed, they would be in completion to Killology/Warrior Science for same market. Hmmm?)

    Also looked at their “staff” and found an Aveni. Given uniqueness of name, went no further and read bio on “Christopher“ Aveni, whose quals to Challenge Dave would be highly suspect – IT type it appears – and therefore my challenge to FM to check sources. Right Aveni was Tom who appears highly qualified.

    My mistake.

    That said, both groups have similarities and use, ref, and recommend Ken Murray’s “Training at the Speed of Life” in regard to reality based training. No way to understand this 2001 debate in context, but Dave Grossman doesn’t need me to defend him.

    IMO, any reader who wants to understand better some of the issues in today’s 4GW/ “war amongst the people” world and most particularly that part related to killing in schools, should read his books and if possible go to hear him speak. But note, you’ll probably have to stand in line behind a lot of law enforcement folks and a lot of teachers.

  18. Final point on comment #16. Fabius questioned almost all my points, but to stay short this time, I will comment on two points as essentially one and the same: Meaning of “refection on the subject” and “nature of 4GW”

    The question on relation to 4GW may be a key to some of this. Battle is battle, people die, get maimed, come home crippled in every way possible. No matter how we got into WWI or II, VN, Iraq or Afghanistan, the issue of the face of battle changing and its impact on multiple levels is important to understand.

    People come home today that would have been buried on the cliffs of France in 1944. And war is amongst the people in a way that is very different than even the experience in VN. Does that difference in type warfare exposure change the nature of how these kids are affected by their experience? I don’t know but, but seems a question worth asking, worth reflecting on.

    Indeed, one reason I have begun to use “4GW/War amongst the people” collectively in almost everything I write now is that “4GW” alone does not, as a term, get the message across.

    (Note: “war amongst the people” is taken from General Rupert Smith’s book The Utility of Force; The Art of War in the Modern World)

  19. Update — I strongly recommend reading this in full

    A General’s Personal Battle“, Wall Street Journal, 28 March 2009 — Hat tip to Ed Beakley and GI Wilson (Colonel, USMC, retired). Excerpt:

    Maj. Gen. Mark Graham is on the frontlines of the Army’s struggle to stop its soldiers from killing themselves. Through a series of novel experiments, the 32-year military veteran has turned his sprawling base here into a suicide-prevention laboratory. One reason: Fort Carson has seen nine suicides in the past 15 months. Another: Six years ago, a 21-year-old ROTC cadet at the University of Kentucky killed himself in the apartment he shared with his brother and sister. He was Kevin Graham, Gen. Graham’s youngest son.

    … Suicide is emerging as the military’s newest conflict. For 2008, the Pentagon has confirmed that 140 soldiers killed themselves, the highest number in decades.

    At a Senate hearing last week, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, told lawmakers that 48 soldiers have already committed suicide in 2009. The figure puts the Army on pace for nearly double last year’s figure. “I, and the other senior leaders of our Army, readily acknowledge that these current figures are unacceptable,” Gen. Chiarelli said at the hearing.

    Beyond Fort Carson, the Army has launched a broad push to reduce the incidence of suicide. Over the next 4 months, all soldiers in the Army will receive additional training on suicide prevention and broader mental health issues. The Marine Corps, which is also being hit hard by suicide, will give all Marines similar training this month. In February and March, the Army for the first time ever excused units from their normal duties so, one by one, they could learn new ways of trying to identify soldiers in need of help.

    Military officials, including Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attribute the increase to repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Earlier this month, Adm. Mullen visited Kentucky’s Fort Campbell, which has had 8 suicides so far this year. Asked about the stresses of repeat deployments during a town-hall meeting with soldiers, he said, “I can’t believe that is not a huge factor” in the number of suicides. Soldiers have been sent to war zones as many as 4 times, often with less than a year between deployments. That situation will likely worsen as the Obama administration boosts troop levels in Afghanistan.

    “It’s cumulative and the problems don’t show up right away,” says Anne League, the chief of psychiatry at Fort Carson. “Soldiers can seem fine at first, even if they’re not.”

    The Army says that for the first time the rate of suicide in the military exceeded that of the general population last year — 20.2 per 100,000 people in the military, compared with the civilian rate of 19.5 per 100,000. (The Centers for Disease Control say the overall civilian suicide rate was 11 per 100,000 for 2005 — the most recent year available — but the Army adjusts the figure to reflect the military’s younger and much more heavily male demographics.) The Army’s suicide rate was 12.7 per 100,000 in 2005, 15.3 in 2006 and 16.8 in 2007.

    Military suicide rates tend to increase during wartime, according to military mental-health personnel like Dr. League, but the current numbers are the highest since the Army began tracking the issue in the 1980s. During the first Gulf War in 1991, for example, the Army’s suicide rate was 14.4 per 100,000.

    In the early 1980s, Ann Haas, now the director of prevention projects at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, studied a group of 100 Vietnam veterans at a Veterans Administration hospital in Montrose, N.Y. All of the veterans had experienced intense combat and been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Over the course of her research, 3 of the veterans killed themselves, a startlingly high percentage. “What we now call PTSD has been part of the aftermath of combat as long as we’ve had wars,” she said. “And there is higher incidence of suicide among people who have been diagnosed with PTSD, like returning veterans.”

    Teasing out the underlying causes is difficult, since it is impossible to fully understand just what prompts someone to commit suicide.

  20. I believe that an annual increase of 19% since 2004 justifies the use of the word ‘skyrocketing,’ and I retract my earlier comments. Still, I believe it would be better to present the statistics earlier in your posts. Not everyone has time to read everything posted on the internet, whether it is 250 or 1000 words.

  21. Update: Suicides in US Army rise in first half of 2009“, AFP, 9 July 2009 — Excerpt:

    Suicides in the US Army are on the rise with 88 suspected cases in the first six months of the year, compared to 67 in the same period in 2008, according to Pentagon figures issued. {a 31% increase} The latest figures confirmed warnings from top US military officers that the number of suicides among active-duty soldiers this year was on track to surpass a record level set in 2008.

    Last year 128 soldiers took their lives, up {11%} from 115 in 2007, amid increasing strain on Army troops serving repeated combat tours. The 2008 suicide rate among active duty soldiers rose to 20.2 per 100,000, surpassing a demographically adjusted national suicide rate of 19.5 per 100,000 in 2005, the latest year on record.

    For more information see “Army Releases June Suicide Data“, Dept of Defense, 9 July 2009.

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