Figures released by the Pentagon today show that military personnel committed suicide at an alarming rate in 2012, and experts are fearful the trend will only continue to get worse. This trend is despite the lessening of combat. But is it related in any way to budget cuts?
The Pentagon figures show 349 suicides among active-duty troops last year. These figures are up from 301 in 2011, and far exceed the Pentagon’s own projections of 325. The 2012 total is the highest since the Pentagon began keeping records of military suicides.
The Pentagon has been struggling for ways to deal with the suicide rate in the military, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and others calling it “epidemic.” Many officials are claiming the trend reflects on the more than a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
More telling is the new threat caused by the real possibility of Defense Department budget cuts and the anxiety of being forced out of the military because of down-sizing of troops. Both scenarios are part of the issue revolving around apparent reasons for the number of suicides, according to the Pentagon.
It seems the worst period of time for soldiers is when they come back home from the war zone. This is being called their “danger zone,” The transitioning back to families and community life, while trying to find a renewed purpose for themselves can be stressful.
The resulting adjustment disorder, coping with the uncertainties of life in the “real world” can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And many people feel the military is not doing enough to help the troops in their adjustment after coming home.
University of Utah military suicide researcher, David Rudd says there are two main categories of troops who are committing suicide. First is the Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, coming back with depression, PTSD or substance abuse.
Then there are the troops who have not been sent to the war zone. This group may have troubling personal problems. These problems might be marital, money, legal or substance abuse in nature. Rudd also feels the problem is only going to escalate, primarily because of the major military budget cuts and downsizing of the military.
How important is the warrior mentality of our military, in relationship to being forced to leave because of budget cuts? The question has obviously been raised by the Pentagon, and was also raised by Mitt Romney while on the campaign trail. It is something worth pursuing.