Military suicides have taken a troubling rise in 2020, according to an Associated Press report, hitting the Army especially hard, as top defense officials believe coronavirus restrictions may be taking a serious mental health toll among members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Overall military suicides may be up by as much as 20% in 2020 compared to this time in 2019, according to AP, citing Defense officials that have been briefed on the issue.
Suicides among active members of the Army have increased by 30% compared to 2019, rising from 88 to 114; the Defense Department did not immediately respond to a request from Forbes for statistics on other branches.
Data from the first three months of 2020 indicated that military suicides were on the decline, but numbers began shooting up in the spring, when new measures to combat the spread of coronavirus were put in place.
Deployments have been lengthened from 10 months to 11 months, because of two-week quarantines now required at the beginning and end, while wounded soldiers now have to deal with much more isolation than in the past while receiving medical care.
Referrals to mental health providers spiked 48% among those in the Wounded Warrior Project between April and the end of August compared to the previous five-month period, according to AP.
Defense Department officials have discussed the rise in suicides, and potential changes could be in the works to improve mental health—especially in the Army, AP reported.
What To Watch For
Army officials are considering shortening deployments, according to AP, as part of a broader focus on prioritizing soldiers’ wellbeing above combat readiness.
“We know that the measures we took to mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID could amplify some of the factors that could lead to suicide,” James Helis, director of the Army’s resilience programs, told AP.
Military suicides have long been an issue officials have hoped to tackle, and believed they were on the right track this year before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, according to AP. Numerous studies have shown that restrictions and lifestyle changes put in place in response to Covid-19 have led to a serious worsening of mental health, with a recent poll finding that young Americans—who make up most of the U.S. military—have suffered more serious negative impacts compared to older counterparts.
What We Don’t Know
It’s not yet clear what the 2020 suicide rate is among the U.S. general population.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. Military veterans press 1.
Military suicides up as much as 20% in COVID era (The Associated Press)
Source: Forbes – Business