Suicides up 15 percent among US troops in 2020

Suicides up 15 percent among US troops in 2020
© Greg Nash

Suicides among U.S. troops rose 15 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to an annual report from the Pentagon released Thursday.

The new figures show that 580 U.S. service members died by suicide last year, a nearly 80-person increase from the 504 who died by suicide in 2019.

The figure for 2020, however, is lower than the 543 U.S. troops who reportedly committed suicide in 2018.

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Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan GOP lawmakers worry vaccine mandate will impact defense supply chain Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Navy probe reveals disastrous ship fire response MORE called the new numbers "troubling," and said suicide prevention is "a paramount challenge" for the military.

"Suicide rates among our service members and military families are still too high, and the trends are not going in the right direction," Austin said in a statement Thursday. 

"We must redouble our efforts to provide all of our people with the care and the resources they need, to reduce stigmas and barriers to care, and to ensure that our community uses simple safety measures and precautions to reduce the risk of future tragedies."

He added that the Pentagon will "continue to work swiftly and urgently," in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

USA Today first reported the new statistics before they were made public.

Alaska has been the site of several suicides, according to USA Today, with six suicides in the first five months of the year. The newspaper reported that the Army has spent more than $200 million in an attempt to improve the quality of life at its bases in the state.

A study released in June found that more than 30,000 active-duty personnel and veterans of wars that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have died by suicide.

That number, the study noted, was almost three times as many service members who were killed in post-9/11 war operations.

Earlier this month, however, the Department of Veteran Affairs released a report that said veteran suicides in 2019 dropped to its lowest levels observed in the previous 12 years.

Updated at 1:46 p.m.