Rising Suicides Among Active-Duty Military: Pentagon Report Reveals Troubling Trend |

According to a recently released Pentagon report, the number of suicides among active-duty military personnel rose in the first three months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2018.

According to the Defense Suicide Prevention Office’s quarterly report, there were 94 active-duty suicides from January through March, a 25% increase over the 75 soldiers who committed suicide in the first three months of 2022.

The report reads, “Every suicide death is a tragedy.” As of March 31, 2023, “data includes all known or suspected suicides (both confirmed and pending).”

The biggest increase in suicide deaths, from 37 to 49, was in the Army. There are now fourteen Marines instead of eight. According to the Defense Department report, there was no change for the Navy or Space Force and there was one more suicide in the Air Force compared to 2022.

Since 97 suicides on active duty were reported in the second quarter of 2021, there have only been 94 suicides on active duty. According to the report, suicide rates among National Guard and reserve members remained constant between the first quarter of 2022 and the same period this year.

Defense Department efforts to prevent them have cost millions of dollars, but Pentagon data show a rise in military suicides over the past ten years, including a notable spike in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.

The department finally passed the Brandon Act in May, allowing soldiers to get confidential mental health care whenever they need it. It bears the name of Brandon Caserta, a Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class who committed suicide in 2018. Defense Department statistics show that in 2020, there were nearly 29 suicides per 100,000 soldiers, up from 17.5 per 100,000 in 2010. Even though it decreased to 24.3 per 100,000 in 2021, the suicide rate was still significantly higher than it was for the majority of the 2000s and 2010s.

“There is still a slow-moving upward trend for suicide in the military over a ten-year period, and we need to see a sustained long-term reduction in suicide rates to know if we’re really making progress,” said Beth Foster, executive director of the Force Resiliency Office of the Pentagon, at the release of the 2021 Annual Report on Suicide in the Military in the fall.

A Pentagon task force established the Defense Suicide Prevention Office in 2011 to find more efficient suicide prevention techniques. After a year of research, the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee at the Pentagon issued a number of recommendations earlier this year, including restricting troops’ access to firearms, instituting waiting periods for the purchase of firearms and ammunition, and raising the purchase age for both to 25. According to the Defense Department, about two thirds of all suicides among active-duty military personnel involved firearms. The Pentagon is considering the suggestions.

The Defense Suicide Prevention Office typically doesn’t release an updated suicide report covering the second quarter, which ended on June 30, until October. Additionally, in October, the Pentagon releases its thorough annual report on military suicides. This year’s study will focus on 2022.

The four-page report notes that “the numbers presented in this report are preliminary and subject to change as previously unreported suicide cases and some known cases are further investigated.” When comparing suicide rates between groups or interpreting changes in suicide rates over time, caution should be exercised.

Each of the military services has a suicide prevention program of their own in addition to programs run by the Pentagon to aid soldiers who are having problems. In addition, last year saw a streamlining of the national suicide prevention hotline, which is now reachable by dialing 988. Veterans Crisis Line is accessible by dialing the number and then pressing “1.” VeteransCrisisLine.net and texting 838255 are other options for service members and veterans seeking assistance.

Rising Suicides Among Active-Duty Military: Pentagon Report Reveals Troubling Trend |

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