In a front-page story, the New York Times (5/16, A1, Dao, Lehren, Subscription Publication) reports on the rise in military suicides, calling the trend “among the most emotionally wrenching – and baffling. Over the course of nearly 12 years and two wars, suicide among active-duty troops has risen steadily, hitting a record of 350 in 2012” – which is “twice as many as a decade before” and more than the number of US troops killed in Afghanistan last year. The Times also says the military may actually be undercounting suicides. But though the Defense Department “has commissioned numerous reports and invested tens of millions of dollars in research and prevention programs, experts concede they are little closer to understanding the root causes of why military suicide is rising so fast.”
A second article in the New York Times (5/16, A14, Dao, Lehren, Subscription Publication) explains the Department of Defense’s defense that the “military’s suicide rate was still lower than the rate for civilians of comparable age, sex and race” may be false. However, Bob Anderson, head statistician for mortality statistics at the CDC, believes the Pentagon’s calculations “underestimate the mortality rate.” By using data counts the active military troops in addition to the number of Guard and reserve troops kept on active duty even for just a day, as the Pentagon does, results in an active military population of 1.67 million in 2009. However, using statistics that require National Guard and reserve troops to serve on active duty for at least six months, the population is reduced to 1.42 million. Using the revised data, it amounts “to be about 21 suicides per 100,000, significantly above the adjusted civilian rate.”
— “Baffling Rise in Suicides Plagues the U.S. Military, “James Dao, The New York Times, May 15, 2013.