Statistics released today show that the U.S. military continues to struggle with suicide. In all, 349 servicemembers died by suicide in 2012, which is the highest number since 2001, when the Department of Defense first began tracking military suicides, and exceeds the 295 combat-related deaths recorded last year. The Pentagon was quick to push back on the numbers, telling the Associated Press that suicide rates among military personnel are statistically lower than average:
The Pentagon says that although the military suicide rate has been rising, it remains below that of the civilian population. It says the civilian suicide rate for males aged 17-60 was 25 per 100,000 in 2010, the latest year for which such statistics are available. That compares with the military's rate in 2012 of 17.5 per 100,000.
That's actually a bit of a dodge. The statistics published today cite active-duty suicides — that is, suicides committed by personnel who are currently enlisted or commissioned. The suicide rate among veterans, on the other hand, is both considerably higher than the civilian population's and, according to the Austin Statesman, probably under-reported:
The VA estimates that an average of 18 veterans per day commit suicide, or 1 out of 5 suicides in the U.S. But that’s just a guess based on incomplete data, said Jan Kemp, who heads the VA’s suicide prevention programs. “To be honest, we don’t know how many veterans are dying by suicide,” Kemp said. “It’s too many, and we have to do whatever we can to stop it.”