US Military: Suicides Are Down 22%

But it doesn't know why

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Nov 11, 2013 3:56 PM CST

(Newser) – Suicides across the US military have dropped by more than 22% this year, defense officials report. The news comes amid an array of new programs targeting an epidemic that took more service members' lives last year than the war in Afghanistan did during that same period. Military officials, however, are reluctant to pin the decline on these efforts, acknowledging that they still don't fully understand why troops take their own lives. And since many of those who have committed suicide in recent years had never served on the warfront, officials also do not attribute the decrease to the end of the Iraq war and the drawdown in Afghanistan.

With two months to go in this calendar year, officials say there have been 245 suicides by active-duty service members as of Oct. 27. At the same time last year there had already been 316. Each of the military services has seen the total go down this year, ranging from an 11% dip in the Marine Corps to a 28% drop for the Navy. The Air Force had a 21% decline, while Army totals fell by 24%. Last year, the number spiked to 349 for the full 12-month period, the highest since the Pentagon began closely tracking the numbers in 2001, and up from the 2011 total of 301. There were 295 Americans killed in Afghanistan last year, by the AP's count.

FILE - A U.S. soldier walks atop his armored vehicle at sunset as he prepares for a nighttime military exercise in the Kuwaiti desert south of the Iraqi border on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2002. Combat appears to have little or no influence on suicide rates among U.S. troops...
FILE - A U.S. soldier walks atop his armored vehicle at sunset as he prepares for a nighttime military exercise in the Kuwaiti desert south of the Iraqi border on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2002. Combat appears...   (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
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