Soldier Suicides Prompt Familiar Pentagon Reaction

Print says the Pentagon’s response to news of a surge of suicides by soldiers is a “familiar refrain.” After the New York Times reported that soldier suicides had reached their highest level in 30 years, Army officials pointed to new programs and a campaign to combat the stigma of mental wounds. “We need to move quickly to do everything we can to reverse the very disturbing number of suicides we have in the Army,” said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli. “We have to change our culture.”

But Propublica said that yearly reports on the Army's suicide rates have spurred similar reactions by the Pentagon since 2003. Meanwhile, the number of suicides has continued to escalate. Officials have pointed to the added stress of the wars since a jump in 2003, but in the years since, suicides spread more evenly among reservists and soldiers who have never deployed. Financial, legal and family problems were among the likely causes, officials told the Times. A March 2008 report by the Army’s inspector general suggested a new “culture of support for psychological health.” And in April 2005, the Marine Corps Times reported that the Army’s surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, said, “That's still part of our culture: Real men don't see [mental health counselors]… I would like to see a culture that resets the force mentally.”

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