A record number of soldiers have killed themselves this year–109–according to Army statistics. The sharp rise in the number of suicides is partially attributed to longer deployments which create additional stress upon individuals and families. The highest previous number of Army suicides since 1990 was in 1992– a period when the army was twenty percent larger in size. A total of 109 suicides would equal a rate of 18.4 per 100,000, the highest since the army began counting in 1980. The civilian rate was 11 per 100,000 in 2004. Senator Pat Murray, noted, “I’m surprised at the suicide increase. But when we’re not doing everything we can to deal with mental health, when we know the Army is under such stress, it’s not a surprise. It has to be a wake up call.”
There have been repeated complaints from a variety of mental health, political, and social groups concerning the enormous stress being placed on fighting men and women who serve two or three deployments in Iraq with no end in sight. The armed forces either have to cease such extensive fighting or face the reality of introducing a draft in order to alleviate the stress imposed on those in combat.