by Chet Hardin
This morning, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Chief of Army Reserve Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz and Acting Director of Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter briefed media on the Army's suicide statistics. What they found was that in 2010, the number of active-duty soldiers committing suicide decreased slightly from 162 to 156. Alarmingly, however, the Army also found that the suicides committed by off-duty soldiers in the Army national Guards and Reserves nearly doubled.
Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s deputy chief of staff and its point person on suicide prevention, told reporters at the Pentagon that there were 343 suicides amongst active and reserve soldiers, Army civilians and family members last year. The number of active-duty suicides in 2010, 156, declined by 6 from 2009, indicating what Chiarelli called the “modest success” of Army suicide-prevention efforts. But 101 Guardsmen took their lives last year, an increase of 53 from 2009, as did 44 reservists, an increase of 12.
During the briefing, Chiarelli stated that it was clear from the statistics that the Army is much better equipped to assist soldiers serving on active duty, to "help mitigate the stressors affecting them," than their off-duty counterparts who have been "removed from the support network provided by the military installations.”
Each man seemed to be at a loss for conclusive reasons for the suicides. Carpenter offered that the “analysis from 2010 shows that it is not a deployment problem, because of 50 percent of the people who committed suicide in the Army National Guard in 2010 had never deployed." It was not due to concerns over employment, as only 15 percent of the suicides were unemployed at the time.
More than 50 percent had an issue with their partners — wives, husbands, etc. — at the time of the suicide, but was reluctant to tie the data to any single cause, pointing out that society at large is seeing an increase in suicides.
The only obvious conclusion, he says, is that “it is a young, white male problem.”
“If you know the one thing that causes people to commit suicide, please let us know,” says Chiarelli, “because we don’t.”