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As the number of veterans committing suicide has climbed to an alarming rate, a civilian-run treatment center has now become a model for treating PTSD and other causes of military suicides. (July 29)

WASHINGTON – The suicide rate among active-duty troops increased in 2019, according to a Pentagon report released Thursday, and Army officials worry that stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may push figures higher in 2020.

Last year, the rate of suicide among active-duty troops was 25.9 per 100,000 troops, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on suicide. The rate was 24.9 per 100,000 in 2018, and 21.9 per 100,000 in 2017. The rate has showed a steady increase from 2014, when the rate was 18.5 per 100,000 service members. The suicide rates in the National Guard and reserve components of the military remained stable last year, according to the report. 

In all, 498 troops died by suicide in 2019.

Among all Americans, the suicide rate has increased 35% over the past 20 years, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The suicide rate among all Americans was 14.2 per 100,000 in 2018, but the Pentagon’s report states that after controlling for differences in age, suicide rates among troops are roughly equivalent or lower than the U.S. population.

U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, seen here in 2018 announcing that Austin would be the new headquarters for the Army Futures Command, visited Fort Hood on Thursday and announced an independent investigation to determine the root causes of recent violence and sexual misconduct there. (Photo: CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES)

Chief Warrant Officer Cliff Bauman:Suicide never entered his mind. Then 9/11 happened.

Young enlisted troops are the primary concern. They account for 43% of the military population but 61% of deaths by suicide. Personally owned firearms, not military weapons, were the primary cause of death.

“None of us has solved this issue,” said Karin Orvis, director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office. “There is no quick fix.”

Among the services in 2019, the suicide rates per 100,000 troops were 29.8 for the Army, 25.3 for the Marine Corps, 25.1 for the Air Force and 21.5 for the Navy. The Air Force had the largest percentage increase, 35%, compared with 2018.

OPINION:We can solve military suicides – with your help, Pentagon and VA say

The Army, in a joint statement Thursday by Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Gen. James McConville on the suicide report, noted that COVID-19 has prompted the service to bolster mental health services for soldiers this year. 

The active-duty Army has seen a 30% increase in 2020 in deaths by suicide, from 88 deaths by suicide in 2019 to 114 this year, The Associated Press has reported. 

“In the face of additional stress of a pandemic, we are working to improve access to behavioral health care while enhancing our resilience training and stigma reduction efforts,” according to their statement.

Orvis would not speculate on the effect of COVID-19 on suicide deaths in the military, saying the data continues to change.

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Cliff Bauman shares the story of how his PTSD from 9/11 led him to attempt suicide, and why he’s so glad he survived.

USA TODAY

Suicide Lifeline: If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night or chat online.

The Military/Veterans Crisis Line, online chat and text-messaging service are free to all service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve and veterans, even if you are not registered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or enrolled in VA health care. Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

If you are grieving the death of a loved one who served, you can contact the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) at 800-959-8277.

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