Suicide in the military is a very serious problem. Historically suicide rates have been lower in the military than those rates found in the general population. However, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military suicide rates have been increasing and surpassing the rates for society at large.
The Army has had the highest proportional number of suicides compared to the other services. However, Admiral Mullen noted that the rates in all the services have been creeping upwards (Knight Ridder Washington Bureau, 2010). Wiebe et al 2006 examined the rates of suicide from 1993-2002 and found that suicide was the first leading cause of death for female veterans and the second leading cause of death for male veterans. Kaplan et al 2009 found that military veterans were twice as likely to die of suicide compared to male non-veterans in the general population. In addition, the researchers found that individuals who were White, had greater than 12 years of education, and had activity limitations were at a greater risk for suicide completion. Other studies have also identified that failed intimate relationships, occupational, legal, financial, and psychiatric problems are top stressors for Service members. Therefore, it is important to become aware of these risk factors and proactively intervene to help Service members that are having difficulty coping.
The Department of Defense has taken steps to increase suicide prevention efforts. They have ordered command stand downs, mandated classes on suicide prevention, created videos, and encouraged leadership to ensure that all commanders are taking care of the Service members under their care.