Military suicides have increased by as much as 20% this year compared to the same period in 2019, and some incidents of violent behavior have spiked as service members struggle under COVID-19, war-zone deployments, national disasters, and civil unrest. While the data is incomplete and causes of suicide are complex, Army and Air Force officials say they believe the pandemic is adding stress to an already-strained force. And senior Army leaders—who say they've seen about a 30% jump in active duty suicides so far this year—said they are looking at shortening combat deployments, the AP reports; soldiers; 10-month deployments have been stretched to 11 months because of the two-week coronavirus quarantines at the beginning and end.
Such a move would be part of a broader effort to make the well-being of soldiers and their families the Army's top priority. The Pentagon refused to provide 2020 data or discuss the issue, but Army officials said Defense Department briefings indicate there has been up to a 20% jump in overall military suicides this year. The Army Guard is up about 10%, from 78 to 86. The Navy total is believed to be lower this year. Pointing to increases in Army suicides, murders, and other violent behavior, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said: "We cannot say definitively it is because of COVID. But there is a direct correlation from when COVID started, the numbers actually went up." When calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255, military veterans should press 1. They also can go to woundedwarriorproject.org, or call the project at 888-997-2586.
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