A worrying trend has developed in the U.S. military – soldiers are killing themselves at a rate of one per day, new figures have shown, which are the highest since the U.S. began its military operations in Afghanistan in 2001.
The findings, conducted by the Pentagon, determined that as of June 3, active-duty suicides for 2012 had reached 154, while they were 130 for the same period last year. The suicides even exceed U.S. combat deaths so far this year. Casualties.org shows that there were 139 U.S. casualties in Afghanistan in 2012, and only one in Iraq.
"We are deeply concerned about suicide in the military," said Cynthia Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman, as BBC News reported. It is "one of the most urgent problems" the Army faces, Smith added.
While no main reason has so far been speculated for the high suicide rate, the data from the Pentagon suggests that soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk.
U.S. military officials reportedly have been encouraging troubled troops to seek mental help by speaking with specialists and setting up confidential telephone hotlines. But, according to the latest figures, those efforts appear to have been unsuccessful.
It has been suggested that soldiers have been conditioned to believe that seeking help is a sign of weakness. Major General Dana Pittard, a commander in the 1st Armored Division, published a blog post in January in which he told soldiers considering suicide to "act like an adult," but soon after retracted his words and encouraged soldiers to seek counseling.
"Suicide prevention is first and foremost a leadership responsibility," insisted Smith. "Seeking help is a sign of strength."
"By achieving a cultural change that encourages help-seeking behaviors, we will be postured to more effectively combat suicide within our ranks,'' added Brig. Gen. Barrye L. Price, head of the Army's human resources policy, as reported by the LA Times.