Army Suicide Rate Begins to Level Off – WSJ.com

 From the Wall Street Journal,

The Army believes it has halted the rise of suicide in its ranks, saying that improved treatment of brain injuries and post-traumatic stress has helped stem years of increases.

But Army officials said Thursday that other problems tied to post-traumatic stress, such as sexual assault and domestic violence, continue to rise.

Army suicides began climbing in 2005, as pressure on soldiers increased with long and repeated deployments in the Iraq war. Many soldiers also returned home with concussions and other traumatic brain injuries from the roadside bombs that became the chief weapon of the insurgency. The annual suicide rate among active-duty Army personnel is currently about 24 per 100,000, higher than the civilian rate of about 19 per 100,000. But the Army rate appears to be leveling off.

Overall, a total of 278 active-duty, National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers committed suicide in 2011, down 8.9% from 305 such deaths the previous year. Active-duty suicides rose slightly last year, but the increase was offset by declines in the reserves. “We have at least arrested this problem, and I hope we will begin to push it down,” said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army vice chief of staff.

The government has improved mental-health screening and care for soldiers and veterans in an attempt to bring down the suicide rate. The end of the Iraq war and reduced overseas deployments for the Army also could be helping to bring down the number of suicides.

Meanwhile, the number of sexual assaults attributed to soldiers rose 41% to 2,290 in 2011 from 1,619 in 2006. The Pentagon proposed a series of measures this week intended to stem sexual abuse and to support victims of such crimes.

Domestic-abuse increased 85%, to 2,699 incidents, in 2011 from 2001. Child abuse rose 44% to 2,201 incidents in the same period.

Gen. Chiarelli is urging the Army and medical establishment to omit the word “disorder” from the condition widely known as post-traumatic stress disorder, to reduce the stigma and encourage affected soldiers and veterans to seek help.

“I just want to get rid of the ‘D,’ ” said Gen. Chiarelli. “You can have the best treatments in the world, but if you can’t get someone to come in and get the treatment because they don’t want to admit that they have a [disorder], they aren’t going to come in.”

Army Suicide Rate Begins to Level Off – WSJ.com