Five myths about military suicides by By Yochi Dreazen

Courtesy of the Washington Post | 11.07.2014

Why are so many soldiers taking their own lives? (Oliver Munday/For The Washington Post)
Why are so many soldiers taking their own lives? (Oliver Munday/For The Washington Post)

Yochi Dreazen is managing editor for news at Foreign Policy and the author of “The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War.”

Jeremy Sears, a Marine who had served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, walked onto a shooting range outside San Diego on Oct. 6, placed a handgun to his head and calmly pulled the trigger. It was a local news story but didn’t attract attention outside San Diego for the most tragic of reasons. Military suicides have become so common — since 2001, more active-duty U.S. troops have killed themselves than have been killed in Afghanistan, and suicides among reservists and National Guard members are spiking — that they are now background noise to many Americans, unpleasant reminders of wars most of us have forgotten about. But we won’t be able to solve the problem until we understand it. Let’s get rid of some myths.

1. Suicides have increased because we have overstretched our troops.

Repeated tours through the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan are often cited as a primary reason so many troops take their own lives. But the statistics don’t support that explanation. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in the summer of 2013 found that longer deployments, multiple deployments and combat experience didn’t elevate suicide risk. In fact, more than half the troops who had taken their lives had never deployed. A separate, massive Army study found that, while suicide rates for soldiers who had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan more than doubled between 2004 and 2009, the rate for those who had never spent time in the war zones nearly tripled. Continue Reading

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