Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Army to report record number of suicides

The U.S. Army will report Thursday the highest level of suicides among its soldiers since it began tracking the rate 28 years ago.

Statistics obtained by CNN show the Army will report 128 confirmed suicides last year and another 15 suspected suicides in cases under investigation among active-duty soldiers and activated National Guard and reserves.

The confirmed rate of suicides for the Army was 20.2 per 100,000. Army officials were reviewing the suspected suicides Wednesday. If any of them are confirmed, the rate would rise.

Last month, Army officials said the nation's suicide rate was 19.5 people per 100,000, a 2005 figure considered the most recent.

Military officials have long said it is difficult to compare the military suicide rate with that of the private sector because of demographic differences and overall human stress factors. Another factor is that military suicides tend to be committed by young men with access to weapons.

For 2007, the Army reported 115 confirmed suicides, then the highest level since 1980, when it began tracking suicides.

The Army is expected to announce a new effort to study the problem and determine why its suicide-prevention programs appear not to be working, and the extent to which post-combat stress may be a contributing factor.

Many of the suicides occur after troops return home. The death of Army Spc. Tim Bowman was such a case. The 23-year-old killed himself in 2005 after returning from Iraq.

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