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Report Finds Toll, Possible Causes of Military Suicides

Greater funding of programs hasn't helped, Cost of War Project says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2021 5:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – More than four times as many US active military personnel and veterans involved in 21st century wars have died by suicide than were killed in fighting, a new report says. The report from Cost of War Project, run by Brown University and Boston University, listed a series of possible causes, Fox News reports, including trauma, stress, "continued access to guns, and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life." The report also raised the issue of the military's placing "moral responsibility or blameworthiness" on individual troops for matters they may have little influence on, per the New York Times. In addition, the report said, the increase in the use of IEDs has caused more traumatic brain injuries, though not all of the service members who killed themselves were in combat, and wars are lasting longer. It also attributes part of the problem to "the American public's disinterest in the post-9/11 wars." In those wars, 7,057 service members were killed in combat, while 30,177 veterans and active personnel have died by suicide.

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Unless changes are made to the way the mental health crisis among veterans and active duty troops is handled, suicides will keep increasing, the report says, adding, "That is a cost of war we cannot accept." For one, the report says, "the military needs to promote help-seeking attitudes and frame them positively." Agencies need to take "moral injuries, military sexual trauma, and other traumas outside of the theater of war" as seriously as physical injuries, the authors write. The government has spent increasing amounts of money on programs to reduce the number of suicides, they say, but to little effect. Overall, the suicide rate for veterans is 1.5 times that of civilians, but it's higher for those involved in post-Sept. 11 wars. Members of Congress say they expect recently approved programs, some of which are intended for veterans living in rural areas, to make more of a difference. (Read more military suicides stories.)

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