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New Report Shows Uptick in Military Suicides Last Summer

When life gets difficult, suicide can seem like the only way out. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Steven White)
When life gets difficult, suicide can seem like the only way out. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Steven White)

Suicides in the U.S. military showed an increase over the summer months last year for active and reserve components compared to the same period in 2014, in a possible departure from a slight downward trend, the Defense Department reported Monday.

For the third quarter of 2015, including the months of July, August and September, the number of suicides recorded for the active duty military was 72, compared to 57 in the third quarter of 2014.

In the reserves, including the Air National Guard and Army National Guard, the number of suicides in the third quarter of 2015 was 70, compared to 48 in the same period a year earlier, according to the Defense Suicide Prevention Office.

At a briefing, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the office's Quarterly Suicide Report showed a "slight increase for all branches" in the number of suicides.

"The Department of Defense continues to consider any suicides too many and we're doing everything we can to prevent suicide in our military," he said. "A number of different methods we have that the services are employing we believe are effective, but they do take time."

Suicides in the active-duty Marine Corps more than doubled in the third quarter of 2015 compared to 2014 to 13 from six, the report said.

Figures on the third quarters of 2015 and 2014 showed suicides in the active duty Navy increased to 11 from seven; in the active duty Air Force to 16 from 13; and in the active duty Army to 32 from 31.

Through all of 2014, the number of suicides recorded for the active duty military was 273, and for the reserves it was 170, for a total of 443. Through the first three quarters of 2015, the number of suicides for active duty was 202 and the number for the reserves was 161, for a total of 363.

In an interview last month with Military Times, Dr. Keita Franklin, director of DSPO, said that through Dec. 15 the number of suicides among active duty members appeared to have leveled off for the third straight year, possibly indicating that suicide prevention programs were having an effect.

Through Dec. 15, the initial data showed that 275 active-duty members had taken their own lives in 2015 -- two more than in 2014, the Pentagon said. The numbers appeared to have "reached a plateau, where you see three years of data that is similar in nature, and are not largely spiking like we saw in 2008, 2009 and again in 2011," Franklin said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com.

Related Topics

Department of Defense Military Suicide Suicide Prevention PTSD Richard Sisk

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