Military Suicides Drop Significantly in 2013

Suicides by military personnel are down 22 percent so far in 2013, just one year after a record number of service members took their own lives. By Eric Katz

Suicides by military personnel are down 22 percent so far in 2013, just one year after a record number of service members took their own lives.

There were 245 suicides from Jan. 1 through Oct. 27, according to The Associated Press, compared to 316 through the same period in 2012. In the full calendar year last year, the military recorded 349 suicides, the highest figure since the Pentagon began gathering the data in 2001.

Every branch has seen a decrease so far in 2013, with the Navy dropping 28 percent, the Army 24 percent, the Air Force 21 percent and the Marine Corps 11 percent.

Defense officials who shared the data with AP declined to identify concerted efforts by the Obama administration to curb suicides in the military — such as a 2012 executive order directing federal agencies to expand suicide prevention programs and mental health care for service members, veterans and their families — as the root of the improving numbers. The Pentagon has also increased the number of behavioral health care providers by 35 percent over the past three years and has begun providing more mental health services on the front lines, according to AP.

(Read more: The Military Has More Than 900 Suicide Prevention Programs)

The inability to isolate the cause of the drop stems from the Pentagon’s uncertainty over exactly what prompts military members to take their own lives, the officials said. They similarly rejected the notion the decline is simply a result of the drawdowns of two wars, as many service members who never served in combat zones committed suicide in recent years.

Aside from a two-year stagnation in 2010 and 2011, military suicides have risen consistently since 2006. 

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