Suicides in the ranks of our troops are surging and it’s alarming. Through June 3, there have been 154 suicides this year, averaging nearly one a day. During the same period last year, there were 130 suicides by members of our military.
The immediate response is that the frequent deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq are behind this high suicide rate. Certainly that’s a factor, but the Pentagon said a substantial proportion of Army suicides are committed by soldiers who never were deployed.
Military life is a way of life that isn’t for everyone and while the vast majority of the troops handle the adjustment, some can’t and crack. Going in they undoubtedly thought they could make the adjustment. That probably always has been the case, but for some reason the suicide rate is on the rise. Studies have offered explanations, such as combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, misuse of prescriptions and personal financial problems. The latter two reasons are present in civilian life also and lead to suicides. We don’t doubt that some of the suicides would have occurred even if the person never entered the military.
The Associated Press reported the military also is struggling with increased sexual assaults, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse and other misbehavior. That can’t all be blamed on military life. Those offenders probably would have committed the same crimes as civilians.
Is life more stressful today than in other eras? Are people different today than other generations? Stress undoubtedly always has been present. There are more conditions today that can lead to stress. Life is not as simple as it once was. Recognition of stressful conditions can lead to better handling of them in some instances.
We have no scientific studies at hand to back up the conclusion that people with deep religious faith may be less prone to suicide and to other behavior problems. It is accepted that the majority of suicides result from mental health conditions, many of which are brought on by stress.
The majority of people handle stress. Others can’t.