Leaders Face ‘Incredibly Complex’ Challenges as Troops Return From War Zones, 2012 Army Report Warns

Report Provides Detailed Accounting of Rising Suicides, Crime, Drug Abuse

312 active-duty deaths between 2006-2011 caused by drug toxicity, were classified as ‘undetermined’ by Army investigators

by Lisa Chedekel
New Haven Independent, Jan 24, 2012

Troops who have deployed to war zones two or more times have a higher risk of committing suicide than those who have deployed once or never deployed, a new Army report shows.

The report—“Army 2020: Generating Health & Discipline in the Force”—shows the suicide rate among active-duty soldiers reaching a new high in 2011 of about 24.1 per 100,000—up from 9.6 per 100,000 in 2004. In terms of stressors, military work stress was the leading factor in suicides in 2010, replacing relationship problems, which had been considered the prime factor in suicides from 2003-09.

2012 Army report warns leaders that challenges of drug abuse, suicide and crime will be incredibly complex and consequential as troops return from more than 10 years of continuous war in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the report, Army officials acknowledge that some of the suicides were preceded by warnings that went unheeded by leaders.

“To be sure, the Army has investigated numerous suicide cases that, in hindsight, seemed to present a clear trail of behavioral indicators that may have afforded leaders or others in the social circle an opportunity to respond,” the report said.

“However, post‐mortem suicide investigations can never truly capture the subtlety of pre‐ suicide indictors, nor truly judge the appropriateness of the response within the pre‐suicide context.”

The Army has improved mental-health services and taken myriad other steps to stem suicides since 2005, as pressure on soldiers increased with long, repeated deployments. The new report shows that the percentage of suicides committed by soldiers who had deployed multiple times increased steadily from 2009 through 2011.

Army officials said that while the increase in suicides over the last six years has been “dramatic,” self-inflicted deaths among active-duty troops appear to be “stabilizing at approximately 160 deaths (per year)” in the last several years.

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