The military suicide rate has dropped among active duty service members, but the deaths of Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers increased, new figures from the Defense Department reveal. Reservist suicides increased from 140 in 2012 to 152 in 2013, slightly higher than the number of active duty suicides, at 151. Because many members of the Army National Guard and Reserve live in remote communities, getting quick access to military health services is often more difficult, the Associated Press's Lolita C. Baldor reports. More than half of reservists who committed suicide over the past two years had links to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army said.
Overall active duty suicides dropped by 18 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to the Pentagon. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps reported 289 suicides last year, down from 343 in 2012. Most suicides were from the Army, while the Navy saw a 25 percent decline. But while each military branch has prevention programs designed to reduce stigma around mental health issues, the reservist suicide increase suicides raises questions over whether those programs reach civilian soldiers. In March, the largest ever study conducted on military suicides found that among service members who were never deployed, the rate of suicide tripled, and soldiers showed significant signs of mental illness. Despite historically lower rates of suicide in the Army, a 2013 study released the troubling statistic that every 65 minutes a soldier committed suicide.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association of America founder Paul Rieckhoff said in a statement that the public should be "moved to action" by the numbers. “Suicide is the top issue for the military and veterans community. Today’s report underscores why that is," Rieckhoff said. "Everyone should be outraged about these numbers and all the recent news regarding military and veteran suicide."