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Suicide in the U.S. military soars to a record high

Filed in
  • military
  • PTSD
  • Suicide

By Thomas Heffron  |  Jan 17, 2013
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The Associated Press reported this week that suicides in the U.S. military soared to a record high in 2012.

Pentagon figures indicate that 349 active-duty soldiers committed suicide last year. This total is up from 301 suicides in 2011. The AP reports that the 2012 total is the highest on record. The Pentagon began keeping a close count of suicides in 2001.

The number of military suicides also exceeds the number of U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan last year. About 310 U.S. soldiers died while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder may be one factor behind these startling statistics. Studies suggest that suicide risk is higher in people with PTSD. The VA estimates that PTSD occurs in up to 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Common signs of PTSD include feelings of intense fear and horror after a terrifying event. Sometimes this response is delayed. Symptoms may not appear until a few days or even weeks after the event.

Recurring nightmares tend to be the most disturbing aspect of PTSD. In these dreams the event may be relived in a way that seems shockingly real.

Most people with PTSD also report having disturbed sleep. It can be hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. This is known as “adjustment insomnia.”

The AASM previously reported on the high rates of disturbed sleep among U.S. veterans. Sleep problems were more common and severe among those with PTSD. The military community also has debated whether or not veterans with PTSD should receive a Purple Heart.

About half of people with PTSD get better within three months. For others it can be a lifelong problem. Treatment options for PTSD include cognitive behavioral therapy and medications.

For help call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). (To be routed to the Veterans Crisis Line, dial 1 after being connected).