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MSRC's David Rudd Quoted in: "Another threat stalks our troops: Suicide claims more soldiers' lives than the Afghan war"

Another threat stalks our troops: Suicide claims more soldiers' lives than the Afghan war

Suicide took the lives of more active-duty U.S. military personnel in 2012 than did the war in Afghanistan. It was a record death toll amid what is a little-known crisis.

According to the Pentagon, there were 349 self-inflicted fatalities among GIs last year. The Associated Press count of deaths in the Afghan conflict was 295.

Not only the Department of Defense is worried about the insidious threat at home and abroad.

"Today, more American service members die by their own hands than at the hands of our enemies," noted John E. Hamilton, the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "Long, repeat deployments through more than a decade of war have taken an immeasurable toll on our nation's newest generation of heroes."

America is obligated to do everything it can to safeguard the lives of those in uniform.

But there is more to the problem than facing combat during multiple tours of duty overseas.

Over half of the troops who killed themselves had never deployed to bases outside of the United States, and 85 percent of them never saw combat.

There are two main categories of GIs who are committing suicide at an accelerating pace, notes David Rudd, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Utah.

He says one major group includes Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress or substance abuse. Then there are those who have not gone to war but face troubled personal relationships, money problems or legal woes.

Focused on the psychological transition to stateside duty and other problems is Kim Ruocco, who directs a suicide-prevention effort for a support group, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS.

Her husband, Marine Maj. John Ruocco, killed himself in 2005.

Ms. Ruocco says, "Now that we're decreasing our troops and they're coming back home, that's when they're really in the danger zone, when they're transitioning back to their families, back to their communities and really finding a sense of purpose for themselves."

In response to the wave of suicides in the military, President Obama has ordered joint prevention efforts by the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs, Education and Health and Human Services,

The Defense Department has embarked on a $50-million study of suicide with the National Institute of Mental Health, the largest ever undertaken.

To enhance suicide-prevention programs by the Pentagon and the VA, Congress has allocated $40 million.

Let's hope the results will be life-saving.

Identifying troubled individuals in uniform isn't easy. More than two thirds of those who committed suicide never told anyone of their intention, and most of those who did told family members, not fellow troops.

There are often warning signs, however.

A Pentagon study found that about 65 percent of service members who attempted suicide had a known behavior disorder such as depression; and 45 percent of those who actually killed themselves had such a history.

So vigilance in military circles is vital.

As Ms. Ruocco explains, "If you have a perfect storm of events on the day with somebody who has high risk factors, it's very difficult to be there every moment, fill every crack, and we just have to continue to be aware of what the risk factors are."

Part of the process should be expanded military training and counseling about the risks of daily life inside what is required to be a professional warrior culture.

We owe our full support to the patriots in uniform who dedicate themselves to protecting America.

Original Article