By Kent Harris, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Friday, May 21, 2010
Facing a spike in the number of troops taking their own lives, Air Force leaders have called for bases to hold stand-downs to talk about suicide.
Through May 7, 22 active-duty airmen have committed suicide, according to the Air Force Surgeon General’s Office. At that pace, the service would far surpass figures for the past seven years. The Air Force has averaged 39 suicides a year since 2003.
“The Air Force is experiencing an alarming number of deaths due to non-combat causes,” according to a letter signed by Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Roy.
As evidence, the letter references 18 suicides, meaning four more airmen have taken their lives since the letter was written a couple of weeks ago.
The Air Force, along with the other services, have had similar stand-downs in recent years to focus on the issue.
The Army began a suicide awareness campaign last spring after seeing a spike in its suicide numbers. Through the first four months of the year, it has reported 49 “potential suicides” among active-duty troops through April, with only 16 of them confirmed. At that pace, roughly 150 soldiers would take their own lives, after 163 suicides in 2009.
The Marines have reported 14 suicides so far in 2010 after 52 in 2009, and the Navy has registered eight suicides through April, which is far below the 2009 numbers, when 48 sailors committed suicide.
In addition to the 22 active-duty airmen, 10 members of the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve and four Air Force civilians have killed themselves this year.
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