Pentagon study finds rising suicide rates in military

Pentagon study finds rising suicide rates in military
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Suicide rates in the military were higher in 2018 compared to the previous five years despite efforts to prevent such deaths, according to an annual Pentagon report released Thursday.

A total of 541 active duty, National Guard and Reserve troops committed suicide last year, the Department of Defense Annual Suicide Report found.

The figure included 187 Army troops, 79 Navy sailors, 77 Marines and 63 Airmen, as well as 118 Army National Guard and 17 Air National Guard members.

Suicide rates among active-duty troops increased across all military services from 2013 and 2018, rising from 18.5 suicides per 100,000 service members to 24.8, according to the report.


The rate did, however, remained steady for Reserve and Guard members in the same timeframe.

Enlisted men younger than 30 are the population of greatest concern to the military and account for about 60 percent of all suicide deaths in 2018, the Pentagon’s Defense Suicide Prevention Office Director Karen Orvis told reporters at the Pentagon.

This year’s report also indicates that suicide rates for active component and Reserve members are comparable to U.S. population rates — after accounting for age and sex — but rates for Guard members are higher than the U.S. population after similar adjustments.

The rates for Guard members are about 30.6 deaths per 100,000 service members, and the rates for Reserve troops are 22.9 per 100,000.

The military suicide rates, while mostly comparable to broader civilian rates, are “hardly comforting and our numbers are not moving in the right direction,” said the Pentagon’s Office of Force Resiliency Director Elizabeth Van Winkle, who spoke alongside Orvis.

Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyTrump's 355-ship pledge complicates the Navy's budget dilemma Overnight Defense: War powers fight runs into impeachment | Kaine has 51 votes for Iran resolution | Trump plans to divert .2B from Pentagon to border wall Overnight Defense: House passes measure to limit Trump on Iran | Pelosi vows vote to end 2002 war authorization | Officials believe Iran accidentally shot down passenger plane MORE and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville called the report “disheartening and disappointing.”

“Suicide is devastating to Families and units, and tears at the fabric of our institution,” the two said in a joint statement. “We will continue to take a hard look at the challenges we face with suicide to ensure the proper resources are in place to protect those at risk."

The report comes as three Navy sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush died by suicide in the last week, with two deaths on the same day.

The deaths bring the total number of crew member suicide deaths to five in the last two years.

The report notes that the Navy had “statistically significant” increase in suicide rates in the past five years, which Orvis said was a 6 percent average annual increase of deaths year-over-year.

The Pentagon has several suicide prevention initiatives focused on addressing the stress factors that tend to come before a suicide, but there is no service or Defense Department-wide rules or policy on how to respond to or address an individual who shows signs of a potential suicide.


People experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit for additional resources.