After rising steadily over the past decade, suicides across the military have dropped by more than 22% this year. Military suicides began rising in 2006, reaching their highest record in 2009 before leveling off for two years. Defense officials have launched increased efforts to eliminate the stigma of getting help, but are still unsure about what exactly prompts soldiers to take their own lives. While this drop in suicide will be a relief to some, there is no indication whether this is a trend or a one-year anomaly.
Suicidal thoughts among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have been associated with a range of family concerns, strains of leaving for deployment, depression, and direct effects of war such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, perceived social support can help with these effects.
- Martha Bruce. 2010. “Suicide risk and prevention in veteran populations.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1208(1):98-103.
However, the socio-cultural environment is also a crucial element in understanding military suicide. It can act as a cause through the military’s fatalistic masculinity ideology by internalizing individual problems, but also as a solution when soldiers perceive social support for dealing with their strain.
- Chad Lemaire and David Graham. 2011. “Factors associated with suicidal ideation in OEF/OIF veterans.” Journal of Affective Disorders 130(1):231-238.
- Harold Braswell and Howard Kushner. 2012. “Suicide, social integration, and masculinity in the US military.” Social Science & Medicine 74(4):530-536.