Why are so many American soldiers killing themselves? The answer is more complicated than PTSD from war. According to the largest study ever undertaken focusing on suicide rates in the military, suicide rates among soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan more than doubled from 2004 to 2009, with more than 30 suicides per 100,000. But the rate among those who never deployed was even higher, tripling to between 25 and 30 per 100,000 people. What's going on?
"A simple explanation that war is hell and you send people to war and bad things happen to those people is an incomplete explanation," says Michael Schoenbaum, the lead author on the study. Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health studied the records of nearly a million soldiers. (Perhaps that’s a big enough number to quiet the naysayers, including the Army general who blogged about suicide being selfish.) The research published as three separate papers in The Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry.
The report found significant rates of mental illness among soldiers. Around a quarter of troops reporting having some form of psychiatric disorder, and one in 10 have multiple mental health issues. Suicide rates were reported highest among men and deployed women, white servicemembers, those who are junior in rank, and those who are recently demoted. Previous deployment was also a significant factor.