Breaking the Press Blackout: Suicide Rates Up Among Iraq Soldiers

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By: E&P Staff

The press rarely carries accounts of U.S. suicides in Iraq. Military personnel who do not die in combat are usually put in one category, covering “non-hostile” death, which includes vehicles, illness, friendly fire and other causes. The press rarely finds out about suicides. But suicides among U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq doubled last year over the previous year, U.S. Army medical experts have now announced.

Twenty-two U.S. soldiers in Iraq took their lives in 2005, a rate of 19.9 per 100,000 soldiers, just over the rate in 2003 (the year of the U.S. invasion). In 2004, the rate had slid to 10.5 per 100,000, which the military said was due to efforts at prevention.

The figures do not include members of other U.S. military services in Iraq such as the Marine Corps.

Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the Army’s surgeon general, said at a press conference, “We think that the numbers are so rare to begin with that it’s very hard to make any kind of interpretation. We have not made a connection between the stress on the force and some massive or even significant increase in suicides.”

A survey of the morale and mental health of U.S. soldiers in Iraq in late 2005 found 13.6 percent of the soldiers reporting symptoms of acute stress and another 16.5 percent describing a combination of depression, anxiety and acute stress. These numbers, about 30% total, were also up from 2004.

Other findings in the report:

–Troops involved in training Iraqi security forces reported higher morale than those serving on combat teams, partly because they felt their work was part of the solution in Iraq.

–The number of those who felt that seeking help was a “sign of weakness” declined from 35 percent to 28 percent.

— Troops sent a second time to Iraq reported greater stress rates than first-timers. Some 12 percent serving their initial deployment reported acute stress, compared to 18.4 percent of those serving a repeat deployment.

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