Gregg Zoroya / USA TODAY – 2011-01-20 23:39:29
(January 19, 2011) — An increase in suicides among National Guard soldiers largely in states across the Midwest — such as Missouri and Wisconsin — is responsible for a 24% increase in Army suicides last year, the service reported Wednesday.
Missouri and Texas each reported seven suicides among their National Guard troops in 2010, Wisconsin had six, and there were five each in the National Guard units of Minnesota, Ohio, Arizona, California and North Carolina.
Soldiers, both active duty and on inactive status, died by suicide at the rate of 25 per month in 2010, Army figures show.
“All of us are stunned by it, and we wished we knewwhy,” says Army Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie of the Wisconsin National Guard. “It is especially hard when it’s suicide, when it’s someone hurting in our ranks.”
USA TODAY reported in November that suicides had doubled among National Guard soldiers who were on inactive duty in a year when the Army was seeing a slight decline among active-duty soldier suicides.
The Army released final year-end statistics Wednesday. There were 301 confirmed or suspected soldier suicides in 2010, including those on active duty and reservists or National Guard troops on an inactive status, the Army reported Wednesday. This compares with 242 in 2009.
The Marine Corps reported a decline in suicides from 52 in 2009 to 37 confirmed or suspected cases in 2010.
Among active-duty Army soldiers, there were 156 potential suicides in 2010, down slightly from 162 in 2009.
Among National Guard soldiers on inactive status in 2010, there were 101 confirmed or suspected suicides, more than double the 48 deaths.
Suicides among National Guard troops in Missouri and Wisconsin not only outnumbered such deaths in previous years but were also far more than combat deaths for these units during any year since 2001, says Guthrie and Maj. Tammy Spicer of the Missouri National Guard. As an example, the largest number of Missouri National Guard members killed in combat was three in 2006, less than half the seven suicides in 2010.
Members of the National Guard or Army Reserve who are on inactive duty are civilians much of the time, wearing a uniform only to drill one weekend a month and two full weeks a year.
Army leaders said Wednesday that more must be done to monitor and keep tabs on troops, and section leaders should checking in with them more frequently.
“We recognize we must be even more aggressive,” says Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff.
Chiarelli says programs designed to help soldiers deal better with stress, make it easier for them to seek substance-abuse treatment and obtain marriage and family counseling are helping prevent suicides among active-duty troops.
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