SACRAMENTO — The Pentagon is struggling to deal with suicide rates among active duty service people following a 6% overall increase in the last five years.
In 2018, the suicide rate per 100,000 service members was at 24.8, up from 18.5 in 2013.
The biggest jump was among the ranks of the Army National Guard, where there were 35.3 suicides per 100,000.
Most of the suicides were among men younger than 30 years old.
While demographically, the military suicide rate mirrors that of the general population, the impact military suicides will have on the security and safety of the country is worrisome.
The difficulty in identifying potential suicide candidates is that some may not have any history of mental illness. Many believe that big life changes and exposure to trauma can bring on thoughts of suicide, especially if you’re isolated from family and friends.
“Whether it’s your command officer or people in your peer group, not having that support really accessible for a person may be challenging,” said Dr. Urmi Patel, a psychologist with Sutter Mental Health Systems.
Soldiers and sailors are sometimes reluctant to seek help with mental health issues because they think it’s a sign of weakness.
Patel said issues of suicide may bleed over into civilian life after someone leaves active service.
U.S. military officials are stepping up efforts to educate officers and recruits about the issue and about services that are available. Mental health professionals for the civilian population are also focusing on bringing more awareness to the issue as suicide numbers increase among the general population.