There is hope among the experts that 2015 turns out differently than the past five years. According to a preliminary report released by Department of Defense, the total number of suicides among U.S. active-duty service members was virtually unchanged from 2013 to 2014.
This would be reason to celebrate if the number was zero.Unfortunately, it is not.
While the Army reported a decline in soldier suicides for the second straight year (135 in 2014 vs. 146 in 2013), suicides among sailors and airman last year raised the total suicides among active-duty personnel to 288, up from 286 in 2013.
Despite the millions of dollars devoted to reducing suicides, the numbers clicked up – not down.
In 2009, military suicides reached historic highs and have continued to hover at around 300 a year. The one exception was 2012, when there were a record 352 suicides. The suicide rate for the Army that year was nearly 30 suicides per 100,000 soldiers, well above the national rate of 12.5 per 100,000 for 2012.
The numbers include confirmed and suspected suicides, and suicides among National Guard or reservists who died while on active duty.
The Pentagon issued a statement acknowledging that suicides have remained constant but said there are encouraging signs that more service members are seeking help for emotional issues.
Suicides among veterans over the past five years climbed from 18 a day to 22 a day.
Bottom line: Those who serve and have served continue to fight the emotional battles only to lose the war. One of the keys to overcoming the issue of suicide is helping transitioning service members find a new sense of mission. In doing so, a new purpose is born. From this, one can design an action plan and build a support network.
Until we focus on new mission instead of new medications, many of us in the field expect the suicide rates to continue to climb.
— By Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.