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Suicide Rates Reach High Among American Troops and Veterans

From January 2009 until September 2009 the number of U.S. active troop suicides has already met last years total count with 140 confirmed suicide cases reported by the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff General Peter Chiarelli. In addition, 71 U.S. troops not on active duty have committed suicide this year, one-third have committed suicide before leaving to go overseas. This is a twenty-six year record high and according to the U.S. Military it is not the fault of the military or the wars in the Middle East, but due to unbalanced personal relations. Top military officials claim this number is rising not because of multiple relocations and stress of battle but because marital problems, legal problems and financial problems. However, journalist Penny Coleman of Alternet, argues that troops commit suicide because of multiple deployments and the stress of combat. Coleman insists that labeling these deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan as “accidental noncombatant deaths” covers up the soldiers’ suicides.

The rise of suicides among veterans has also increased, with 6,256 suicides confirmed in 2005 alone. There are multiple reasons for this, including remembering past wars as the U.S. move through the Middle East, or veterans not being able to get appropriate mental and physical healthcare. It is documented that 25%-50% of troops returning from combat have serious mental illnesses, usually linked with depression.

Suicides have also increased among females in the military, producing questions about female rights and equalities in these wars. From April 2009 to September 2009 there were 99 documented cases of U.S. female troops that were suspected of committing suicide.  Forty-one deaths were labeled as “non-combat related” deaths. Multiple cases brought before the U.S. Congress by women have reported rape and sexual harassment from private contractors America has hiring.  The cover-up by the U.S. military and these private contractors reveals what may be happening in our Middle East wars to our female troops.

The armed forces today are reporting a suicide rate three times higher than the statistical norm, and are blaming the deaths on individual troops and their “underdeveloped life coping skills.” Troop suicides in Afghanistan or Iraq are often blamed on bad news from marital partner at home and are considered unpreventable because of their rash, unpredictable actions.

Troop suicides may not be caused by personal problems, but rather stem from their occupation in Iraq.  The government must take a closer look into the problem before more preventable deaths occur.  By looking into any stress caused by both personal problems and occupational hazards, the government would be protecting those who protect our country.

Student Researchers: Claire Apatoff, Erin Kielty, Tom Rich

Faculty Evaluator:  Clarissa Peterson, Associate Professor of Political Science, DePauw University

Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley

Works:

Alarabiya.net (2009) US Army Probes High Suicide Rates Among Troops

Agence France Presse. (2009). As Suicides Spike, US Army Search For Answers. AlterNet.org

Coleman, P. (2007). Pentagon Denies Increase in Troops’ Suicides a Result of War. AlterNet.org

Wright, A. (2008). U.S. Military Is Keeping Secrets About Female Soldiers’ Suicides’. AlterNet.org

Coleman, P. (2009). 120 War Vets Commit Suicide Each Week. AlterNet.org

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