Thursday, September 30, 2010

National Guard and Reserve suicide rates climbing

McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON -- Suicides among Army and Air National Guard and Reserve troops have spiked this year, and the military is at a loss to explain why.

Sixty-five members of the Guard and Reserve took their own lives during the first six months of 2010, compared with 42 for the same period in 2009. The grim tally is further evidence that suicides continue to plague the military even though it's stepped up prevention efforts through counseling and mental health awareness programs.

"Suicides among military personnel and veterans are at an epidemic rate, and it's getting worse," said Tim Embree, a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq and is now a legislative associate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an advocacy group.

The Army recently announced that 32 soldiers, including 11 in the Guard and Reserve, took their own lives in June, a rate of one a day and a level not seen since the Vietnam War, according to the military.

Seven of the suicides occurred in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The worrisome trend is reflected in Missouri, where the state Army and Air National Guards have suffered six suicides so far this year, their highest total in a decade.

They account for nearly a quarter of the 27 suicides experienced since the Missouri Guard started keeping records in 2001.

"We're all devastated," said Col. Gary Gilmore, joint force chaplain for the Missouri Guard. "From their battle buddy right next to them all the way up the chain, each one has a tremendous personal impact and sense of loss."

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-- submitted by Patti Woodard

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