THIS is a national tragedy:
The number of suicide deaths in the U.S. military surged to a record 349 last year — more than the 295 Americans who died fighting in Afghanistan in 2012. The numbers were first reported by the AP; NPR has confirmed them.
The new figures show that the number of military suicides rose from 2011, when 301 such deaths were reported. And people who work with veterans say the numbers could grow worse, as returning soldiers adjust to civilian life. The AP says the numbers are considered to be “tentative,” pending review.
On All Things Considered, NPR’s Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman tells co-host Audie Cornish that the figures represent “active duty and reserve … the largest portion were the active duty Army; 182 took their own lives in 2012.”
Tom says the military’s suicide problem is a complex one. “Most of those committing suicide are young men, 18-24,” he says, who are worried that asking for help will undermine their career.
While some of the deaths can be linked to the stresses of being deployed in a war zone, a third or more of those who killed themselves were never deployed, Tom says. They seem to have been made desperate by financial or personal problems.