America’s military suicide crisis shows no signs of easing, as active-duty US soldiers killed themselves at a rate of more than one per day in this year’s first quarter, up 25% from 2022’s pace, a new Pentagon report has shown.
Active-duty suicides rose to 94 in the January-March period from 75 in the same quarter a year earlier, the US Department of Defense (DOD) said in its latest report on the trend. The total was the highest for any three-month period since 2021’s April-June quarter, when there were 97 military suicides.
The DOD is “fully committed to preventing suicides in our military community,” the Pentagon’s Defense Suicide Prevention Office said in the report. “Every death by suicide is a tragedy.”
Military suicides have risen sharply in the two-plus decades since America’s “war on terror” began following the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. There were almost 29 suicides per 100,000 troops in 2020, up from 17.5 a decade earlier.
The active-duty figures don’t include reservists or veterans. Nearly 17 former US troops kill themselves each day, on average, according to government data. There were 41 suicides by reservists in the latest quarter, unchanged from a year earlier.
In the active-duty ranks, suicides among US Army troops in the January-March quarter jumped 32% from a year earlier, to 49. The Marine Corps so a larger increase, with the number of suicides surging by 75%, to 14.
The Pentagon has looked for ways to reverse the trend – so far unsuccessfully. A DOD advisory panel recommended in February that the US military take such steps as banning gun purchases by soldiers under age 25 and imposing a seven-day waiting period on ammunition sales.
Active-duty suicides have exceeded 300 for each of the past five years, and the first-quarter total puts the military on pace to come closer to 400 such deaths in 2023.
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