Suicides among Army National Guard and Reserve members increased last year – outpacing the number of active duty soldiers who took their own lives – even as suicides across the military dropped by more than 15%, according to data released to the Associated Press.
Across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, 289 people took their own lives last year, down from 343 in 2012, according to the AP. But the uptick in the number of Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers who took their own lives raises alarm that citizen soldiers aren’t getting the help they need, or the same level of aid active duty members receive.
The number of Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers who committed suicide rose from 140 in 2012 to 152 last year. The increase exceeded the number of active duty soldiers who took their own lives. Army officials tell the AP that there were 151 active duty soldiers who committed suicide last year. The year before, it was 185.
Pentagon officials have called the military suicides an “epidemic” and have implemented reforms and programs to combat the trend. The Department of Defense released additional data Friday, showing that suicide rates were slightly worse than expected during wartime. Pentagon calculations reported by USA TODAY found that the true suicide rate after 2006, when the U.S. was embroiled in conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was actually “several tenths of a percent to 1% or more” higher than previously stated. Officials said previous statistics were flawed in relying partly on estimates rather than concrete data when accounting for the suicide rates.
The Defense Department’s figures differ slightly from the totals provided by the four military services based on how their accounted. But according to the military branches, deaths in the Navy accounted for the majority of suicide figures, reflecting how it is the nation’s largest military service. The Navy reported a 25% drop since 2012 when 59 people committed suicide; last year the number was at 44. The Marines saw three fewer suicides this year, from 48 to 45. The Air Force went from 51 to 49.