Why Are So Many US Soldiers Committing Suicide?

“What the horrors of war are, no one can imagine.” β€”Florence Nightingale

In A Nutshell

In recent years, there has been a massive upswing in suicides among members of the American military. While it may seem obvious to blame the post traumatic stress of being deployed to overseas war zones, researchers have found that more than half of those who have killed themselves have never left American soil or seen combat. The cause is currently unknown, and a study is underway.

The Whole Bushel

General Sherman said “War is hell,” and certainly the atrocities of war have inspired despair in soldiers for all of human history. The recent American campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq only serve to bolster the idea that war ravages the human psyche. According to the Associated Press, 349 members of the Army took their lives in 2012, more than the 295 who died in the line of combat in Afghanistan. Although all the branches of the military have been affected, the Army has seen the worst effects.

But researchers have discovered something even more curious in recent years: More than half of the soldiers who committed suicide had never even been deployed overseas. Of those who had, only a few had even seen action on the front lines. It might make sense if those who killed themselves had witnessed the horrors of the battlefield, but why would men stationed in domestic military bases (with steady jobs and many of the surface comforts of home), be driven so frequently to suicide?

Although theories have been advanced, no concrete answers have been set forth to address this disturbing, mysterious trend. A major part of the issue may be that mental illness bears a stigma of weakness, especially among men trained to be stoic in the face of mortal danger. Sleep deprivation and family tensions can plague soldiers, even those who have not known the rigors of combat. Some experts believe the trend is going to become even worse as American forces draw down their current battlefield numbers.

According to General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s second-in-command, only about half of service members who need help seek it out. The American military is currently conducting a $50 million study to help determine the causes at work, to be completed in 2014.

Show Me The Proof

Why Soldiers Keep Losing to Suicide
Army Releases November Suicide Data
More U.S. Troops Died by Suicide Than in Afghanistan Combat in 2012

  • Hillyard

    The military really needs to ramp up its suicide prevention efforts. There is still a stigma attached to seeking help with mental problems but it is lessening. Our soldiers deserve better.

  • gillybean

    I have a friend who was in the army when he was very young. He used to say that the army teaches you to be the best soldier you can be but they don’t teach you how to not be a soldier when you return. I can imagine that to be a soldier who has never been deployed, to have that training and build up and never get the opportunity to use it, would be hard for a lot of people.

  • Yarden

    I was a combat soldier in my country’s army, i saw action only once. In my opinion, the army life – rough training and ignorant hierarchy – break something very delicate inside our human sol. I know it from my personal experience and i believe it to be the main cause for soldiers suicide, even more than post traumatic stress .

    • waj

      Frankly speaking, Deep deep deep down soldiers reading this will
      agree with me. You were deployed, you killed, you killed INNOCENT
      PEOPLE JUST BECAUSE you was commanded too! that was it! You knew deep
      down these kids , women, old men, are all innocent, but ” orders are
      orders ” right? Yes! when you start going on a killing rampage with no
      accountability of the souls you have taken away you REALLLLY think ”
      what goes round doesnt come round?” IT SURE DOES!!!!

      I
      SWEAR BY THE ALMIGHTLY GOD (ALLAH) BY killing these thousands of
      innocent souls πŸ™ πŸ™ you have completely distances your SOUL away from
      GOD! Trust me!!! when your soul is protected by God its the most amazing
      feeling! BUT when you loose that protection around you! ONLY then you
      realise the importance of having that shield around you! When you go
      into anxiety, panic mode, mental illness, its already GOD taking your
      protective shield away! anddd how many I ASK comes and talks to you and
      annoys the crap out of u when your alone ! YES THE DEVIL!!!!!

      BUT!!!
      ANY SOLDIERS ON THIS SITE, WHO HAVE KILLED PEOPLE OUT THERE… ITS NOT
      LATE!!! YOU NEED TO TRULY TRULY TRULY REPENT FROM THE BOTTOM OF YOUR
      HEART AND SEEK ALLAH’S FORGIVENESS! AND FOLLOW ALLAH’S MONOTHEISTIC
      GUIDANCE “QURAN”. ALLAH IS MORE FORGIVING THAN YOU OWN MOTHERS! BY
      AROUND 70 TIMES MORE SO NO MATTER HOW MUCH EVIL YOU DONE! TURN BACK AND
      REPENT TRULY! then watch how your life changes for the BEST! WITH THE
      WILL OF ALLAH! START HELPING POOR PEOPLE, START LOOKING AFTER ORPHANS,
      START GIVING CHARITY, START WORSHIPPING ALLAH, START GIVING BACK TO THE
      SAME PEOPLE YOU TOOK AWAY AND WATCH YOUR LIFE CHANGE

      I SWEAR! YOU WILL REMEMBER MY ADVICE UNTIL YOUR OWN SOUL GETS TAKEN AWAY!

      • rhijulbec

        You are a fucking idiot!

        • Guest

          He was on a role until he started preachin’ the gospel.

      • g.g.palin

        Umm yeah were do you get that figure that Allah is 70x more forgiving than your mother, is that in the conversion table in the back of the Qur’an?

      • Joseph Wilson

        Stfu and die.

      • Tristan George

        Muslim migrants raped a little boy at a pool in canada…he said the 10 year old gave consent.
        Fuck you for making a soldier feel bad about killing literal cavemen.

  • cyberpal

    There is always a side effect, even in being the stooge of a scalp collecting nation.

  • waj

    Frankly speaking, Deep deep deep down soldiers reading this will agree with me. You were deployed, you killed, you killed INNOCENT PEOPLE JUST BECAUSE you was commanded too! that was it! You knew deep down these kids , women, old men, are all innocent, but ” orders are orders ” right? Yes! when you start going on a killing rampage with no accountability of the souls you have taken away you REALLLLY think ” what goes round doesnt come round?” IT SURE DOES!!!!

    I SWEAR BY THE ALMIGHTLY GOD (ALLAH) BY killing these thousands of innocent souls πŸ™ πŸ™ you have completely distances your SOUL away from GOD! Trust me!!! when your soul is protected by God its the most amazing feeling! BUT when you loose that protection around you! ONLY then you realise the importance of having that shield around you! When you go into anxiety, panic mode, mental illness, its already GOD taking your protective shield away! anddd how many I ASK comes and talks to you and annoys the crap out of u when your alone ! YES THE DEVIL!!!!!

    BUT!!! ANY SOLDIERS ON THIS SITE, WHO HAVE KILLED PEOPLE OUT THERE… ITS NOT LATE!!! YOU NEED TO TRULY TRULY TRULY REPENT FROM THE BOTTOM OF YOUR HEART AND SEEK ALLAH’S FORGIVENESS! AND FOLLOW ALLAH’S MONOTHEISTIC GUIDANCE “QURAN”. ALLAH IS MORE FORGIVING THAN YOU OWN MOTHERS! BY AROUND 70 TIMES MORE SO NO MATTER HOW MUCH EVIL YOU DONE! TURN BACK AND REPENT TRULY! then watch how your life changes for the BEST! WITH THE WILL OF ALLAH! START HELPING POOR PEOPLE, START LOOKING AFTER ORPHANS, START GIVING CHARITY, START WORSHIPPING ALLAH, START GIVING BACK TO THE SAME PEOPLE YOU TOOK AWAY AND WATCH YOUR LIFE CHANGE

    I SWEAR! YOU WILL REMEMBER MY ADVICE UNTIL YOUR OWN SOUL GETS TAKEN AWAY!

    http://www.quran.com

    • gillybean

      #fruitcake anyone . . . ?

      • rhijulbec

        Yes, this fellow has posted twice, both the same comments and both here on this article…so yes…fruitcake extraordinaire!

    • Joseph Wilson

      Again, stfu and die.

  • rhijulbec

    Strange for sure! Could it be guilt that they were not deployed but received the same accolades as deployed soldiers? Shame for not having been deployed? Very, very sad. Casualties regardless of how they chose to cope.

  • Jonny O

    One should look into the correlation between army enrolment and socioeconomic standing. Many poor, disenfranchised youth in America see the military as their most stable option for education and employment. Thus what I mean to say is that when a vast segment of your recruitment comes from an already troubled demographic, the core internal issues could already have been set in motion. In addition we have to remember that these are people, and every single person is fighting their own battle with the own individual circumstances so it could be quite difficult to assert any one blanket reason for the suicides. Its a very personal decision to take your own life and sadly it is nearly impossible to know their exact reason as they aren’t around to share thenm.

    • James R. Strickley

      Jonny O, Thank you. You have hit the nail right on the very head. Been there several times but God & Family and professional help through the VA has saved my life. On going therapy for over forty years. Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression has NO CURE….ONLY TREATMENT can keep me from attempts and/or committing suicide. God Bless.

  • Mingy

    You want to know what the problem is? Its really easy and simple. There is no help. Literally. You can go see the base psychologists and all they are, are military officers who will diagnose you. The problem with that is because they are officers so they do not understand why your enlisted life is so hard. They will try to pawn you off onto prescriptions, with a lot of them being untested. What better guinea pigs then a servicemen with a problem.

    To make things worse, there isnt enough help to go around. When you do have a break down, they will tie you down to a gerny and wheel you out to the nearest mental health clinic where you will be stuck with other crazies.

    The only way a servicemen can get real help is to pay out of pocket for an actual and expensive psychologist who wants to help. That is why we are losing so many by their own hands.

  • Lucille Femine

    The answer is obvious – psychiatric drugs. You don’t have to spend $50 million to figure that out. Go to http://www.cchr.org for all the proof you need.

  • JamesKalima

    It is punishment from God, when your cause is just you would not have a stress, but when you fight and kill in unjust war, your are bound to reap the karma!

    • Joseph Wilson

      Did your mother drink while carrying you to term?

  • SpaceRacer

    Life is hard, in and out of the military. In the military, your hand is held every step of the way – they take care of everything; much different than civilian life. In one sense, you are a part of something much bigger than you; you are a part of a team. Every one shares the same goals. Personal differences are set aside; at worst they are dealt with outside of the det – but no matter what you know THEY STILL HAVE YOUR BACK. Once out, that support network is tangent to anything you do. You feel more alone than ever before. In my case, you go from being integral to saving our way of life. Being in charge of soldiers and millions of dollars of equipment. Multiple deployments, etc. to getting a J-O-B – one that is less fulfilling because you know it is far less important, at least on a global scale. Military life is tough, but you get used to the rigors. You get used to the BS day in and out, but always know you have your team, suffering with you. As an NCO, the officers are usually nice folks, but oblivious to the BS that gets thrown our way. Once you get away from that environment, you are on your own – and it’s great for a while. Civilians don’t really get it. The world is a big place, and despite all the s* you went through, it is tougher to navigate. The military tries to take care of everyone, but they wind up talking about crap that isn’t relevant, and make you suffer through hours of powerpoints that are close to useless. I just left the Army and it is easy, even with family (the stresses of which we aren’t really used to because we are always gone), to feel alone. Now, at least I think I am closer to understanding why SM’s make the choice to end their lives – although I know I will never fully understand what is someone’s head and why they choose this path. Old thread, but it felt good to write this.