As many as 121 Army soldiers committed suicide in 2007, a jump of some 20 percent over the year before, officials said Thursday.The rise comes despite numerous efforts to improve the mental health of a force stressed by a longer-than-expected war in Iraq and the most deadly year yet in the now six-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.
Internal briefing papers prepared by the Army's psychiatry consultant early this month show there were 89 confirmed suicides last year and 32 deaths that are suspected suicides and still under investigation.
More than a quarter of those — about 34 — happened during deployments in Iraq, an increase from 27 in Iraq the previous year, according to the preliminary figures.
The report also shows an increase in the number of attempted suicides and self-injuries — some 2,100 in 2007 compared to less than 1,500 the previous year and less than 500 in 2002.
The total of 121 suicides last year, if all are confirmed, would be more than double the 52 reported in 2001, before the Sept. 11 attacks prompted the Bush administration to launch its counter-terror war. The toll was 87 by 2005 and 102 in 2006.
Officials said the rate of suicides per 100,000 active duty soldiers has not yet been calculated for 2007. But in a half million-person active duty Army, the 2006 toll of 102 translated to a rate of 17.5 per 100,000, the highest since the Army started counting in 1980, officials said. The rate has fluctuated over those years, with the low being 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001.
I have my own hypothesis which is that Americans are not able, in good conscience, to kill in hand to hand combat as the military has demanded in Iraq and Afghanistan in an immoral war perpetrated under deceitful rationale by their commander in chief. Guilty consciences on top of other psychosocial stressors is a deadly combination.
I am distressed as I run into young people who are considering joining the military wondering if they understand how their moral conscience may be compromised when they are asked to kill for immoral reasons.
It is interesting how the moral conflicts engendered by the activities of killing fellow human beings is never mentioned in our national policy discussions, let alone the toll it takes on the mental health of the people who are asked to kill for us in our name.
As Americans we are not only responsible for the killing done in our name, but for the mental health of the killers who kill at our behest. Apparently, an increasing number of them cannot live with themselves and hate their lives enough to end them, and not only is the blood of those they have killed for us on our hands, but now their blood is on our hands as well.
What America needs is a period of repentence as we atone for what we have done to our brothers and sisters in other countries, and what we have done to our own.