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Army suicide rate breaks record

US army soldiers head back to their base in the Kuschamond, Paktika province.
US army soldiers head back to their base in the Kuschamond, Paktika province.

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The Army reported a record number of soldier suicides last month. Thirty-eight soldiers are suspected of killing themselves in July — more than one service member a day.

The Army has launched a $50 million investigation into the suicide surge and how to stop it.

Peter W. Chiarelli, former Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, says research can show "who is at a higher risk of having some kind of a mental health problem and hopefully tell them what they can do to lower that risk."

The specific triggers for suicide vary by individual. But for those in uniform, the stresses associated with a decade at war - and the frequent deployments and family separation they entail - play a role. Yet many troops who have never deployed also are killing themselves

Chiarelli - who now heads One Mind for Research, a non-profit focused on brain diseases - said while counseling is crucial, "I have to caution everybody that counseling doesn't always lead to success."

Chiarelli said during his four years as vice chief of staff, he was "shocked by the fact" that about half of the service members who committed suicide had sought counseling.

"That indicates to me that we have not given those people who provide the tools the help they need to have the success rate that we'd like to see," Chiarelli said.

Chiarelli said there are "huge resource issues" with the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs and civilian society.

Older soldiers are now more likely to take their own lives than younger GIs. Analysts suspect that as troops draw-down from combat zones overseas, more veteran soldiers - many of whom have been deploying consistently since the dawn of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - are struggling to reintegrate into civilian life.


Peter W. Chiarelli , former Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army