The agency that patrols our nations borders is grappling with a rise in suicide among its agents. After going nearly four years without a single suicide, records obtained by the AP show that at least 15 agents have killed themselves since February 2008, the Border Patrol's biggest spike in the last 20 years. The AP tracked down some of the dead agents' families, and heard tales of a job that has changed dramatically.
Two years ago, a border agent might process 150 illegal crossers a day. But an increase in agents and fencing has greatly reduced that number, turning a once-thrilling job into a painfully dull one. "Now an agent may sit in one position for eight hours and monitor traffic," says the Patrol's director of peer-support. "They've got a whole lot of time to think about other things going on in their life." With that boredom comes increased danger and resentment: The father of one 24-year-old agent who took her own life said people hurled chunks of concrete at her. Federal officials insist the deaths have nothing to do with the agency, though administrators have quietly undertaken suicide-prevention initiatives. (Read more Border Patrol stories.)