Mental-health experts, the U.S. military, the groups that aid returning service members, their families are trying to provide a sense of support for veterans and active-duty troops in an attempt to prevent the growing number of suicides.
American troops have been taking their own lives in alarmingly increasing numbers over this past decade at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Veterans Affairs Department is looking to black women, the group in the U.S. population with the lowest suicide rate, to learn the factors behind that statistic and, hopefully, then determine how best to use that knowledge to help service members.
We're taking a look at a cross section of the U.S. troops whose suicides have shaken the military and the nation as well as at some of the support offered to veterans and their families, all strained by repeated tours during a decade at war.
This Nov. 2004 handout photo provided by the Ruocco family shows Marine Maj. John Ruocco with his wife, Kim, and their two sons Joey, right, and Billy on the day Ruocco returned from Iraq. In the three months after Ruocco returned from Iraq feeling numb and depressed, he couldn't sleep. He had lost weight and had nightmares. He was distracted and withdrawn from his two young sons.One night, he promised his wife, Kim, that he would get help - the next morning, he was dead. The 40-year-old Cobra helicopter pilot, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., had hanged himself. (National Journal) This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Pvt. Danny Chen,19, who was killed Monday, Oct. 3, 2011 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska. An American soldier charged with abuse that led to the suicide of a 19-year-old fellow soldier in Afghanistan is facing a preliminary hearing Sunday on a base in the country, the military said. Spc. Ryan J. Offutt is charged with offenses including maltreatment, involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide in the death of Pvt. Danny Chen, the military statement said. Offutt is one of eight infantrymen charged in connection with the suicide. (National Journal) This undated photo provided by the Iowa National Guard shows U.S. Army Reserve Spc.Justin Byers, of Schleswig, Iowa. Authorities have ruled that Byers' death, Monday, June 20, 2005, was a suicide. He was hit by a pickup truck when he walked out of a ditch one mile west of Vail, Iowa, on U.S. Highway 30. His brother, Casey, was killed June 11 in Iraq. His family held funeral services for Casey Monday. (National Journal) In this April 27, 2010 photo provided by the U.S. Army Cpl. Joe Sanders, left, and Spc. Albert Godding pose for their photo at Fort Polk, La., after Godding received a Meritorious Service Medal for preventing Sanders' suicide in 2008. The Army created a suicided prevention task force in March 2009 and launched mandatory training that teaches soldiers to watch each other for indications of suicidal behavior. (National Journal) U.S. Army soldiers carry the coffin of U.S. Army Spc. Gil Mercado Roman in Isabela, Puerto Rico on Wednesday, April 23, 2003. Mercado Roman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Iraq. (National Journal) Mary Gallagher, the wife of Gunnery Sgt. James F. Gallagher, poses for a photograph at her home in Lynbrook, N.Y., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007. Mary's husband committed suicide at Camp Pendleton in May of 2006. Preliminary Department of Veterans research obtained by The Associated Press reveals for the first time that there were at least 283 suicides among veterans who left the military between the start of the war in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, through 2005. (National Journal) In this Nov. 12, 2007 file photo, Chris Scheuerman comforts his former wife, Anne, while the couple reminisce about their son Jason, in photo, in Sanford, N.C. Three weeks after an unlicensed Army psychologist concluded Pfc. Jason Scheuerman was capable of faking mental illness to get out of combat duty, he killed himself. Scheuerman's death, the subject of an internal Army investigation exposed to The Associated Press by his family, casts light on the use by the Armed Forces of unlicensed mental health professionals to help soldiers cope with the extreme stress of combat. (National Journal) A piece of art created during an art therapy session at the TAPS Annual National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar & Good Grief Camp in 2010 in Washington, D.C. (National Journal) The TAPS Annual National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar & Good Grief Camp in 2010 in Washington, D.C. brought together people grieving the death of a loved one who died by suicide while serving in the Armed Forces. Participants attended workshops, went to support groups, talked with experts in suicide loss, and connected with others who had experienced a similar loss. While the adults were in workshops, the children attended a camp designed to support their needs in coping with a death. The next event will be held in October. (National Journal)