A new DOD report issued last week details that military suicides reached their highest recorded level in 2018, adding attention to an ongoing issue that has seen a recent spike in numbers since the Pentagon began recording the data in 2001, The Washington Examiner reported.
The report, issued by the Pentagon’s Defense Suicide Prevention office, details that 325 military members committed suicide in 2018, slightly surpassing 321 suicides in 2012 following the Iraq War drawdown.
In 2018, three of the services saw a rise in numbers including 139 active-duty soldiers, 68 sailors, and 58 Marines perishing by suicide last year, while the Air Force saw a slight decline of 60 airman lost to suicide. In 2017 the Air Force had 63 recorded suicides.
However, the total represents a sharp rise to 40 more service members lost in 2018 than the previous year, Military.com reported.
In contrast, a 2017 DOD analysis of military suicides published in July detailed the suicide rate among active duty troops was 21.9 deaths per 100,000 members, an overall slight increase from the 2016 rate of 21.5 per 100,000, but 2017 was not considered a “statistically significant” increase, according to the Military.com report.
Suicide among service members has shown a gradual rise for years, but the 2018 spike to 321 suicides is unusual. There were 285 military suicides in 2017, a slight increase from the 280 reported in 2016. The rate went down significantly after the record 321 in 2012, with 256 reported in 2013.
The Pentagon is preparing to issue a more comprehensive report on military suicides this summer, and the Veterans Administration and DOD are gearing up for a joint conference on suicide, scheduled to be held in Nashville this August.
Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Sadie Colbert