Generals Puzzle Through Surge in Army Suicides

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2009 11:13 AM CDT
Graphic shows active duty Army suicides from 1990 to 2008.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Top Army brass are meeting monthly to figure out the disturbing rise in soldier suicides, the Washington Post reports. The generals pore through case studies and examine factors such as solitude, multiple tours of duty, and interactions between anti-depressants and high-caffeine drinks like Rip It popular among soldiers. “It's the most gut-wrenching meeting I go to,” said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli. The number of Army suicides rose to 140 last year, up 60% since 2003.

The stress of repeated tours of combat is dimly understood, but surveys show that mental health declines with each one. The Army is increasing the number of counselors for such soldiers. Though the causes may be intriguing, what Chiarelli is looking for are answers. “We can't just be players in a game of Clue here," he said. "We have to find a formalized way to get these lessons out."