Suicide Drops For Active Military, but Reserves Rise

Washington — Suicides among Army National Guard and Reserve members increased last year, even as the number of active-duty troops across the military who took their own lives dropped by more than 15 percent, according to new data.

The overall totals provided by the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps give some hope that prevention programs and increased efforts to identify troops at risk may be taking hold after several years of escalating suicide rates. But the increase among Army National Guard and Reserve members raises questions about whether those programs are getting to the citizen soldiers who may not have the same access to support networks and help that their active duty comrades receive.

Not only did suicides among Army National Guard and Reserve members increase from 140 in 2012 to 152 last year, but the 2013 total exceeded the number of active-duty soldiers who took their own lives, according to the Army. There were 151 active duty soldier suicides last year, compared with 185 in 2012, Army officials said.

The Pentagon released a report Friday that provided final data for 2012 suicides and some preliminary numbers for 2013. But the department data differs a bit from the totals provided by the services because of complicated accounting changes in how the department counts suicides by reservists. Some of the Pentagon numbers were finalized a year ago, while the services have more recently updated totals that reflect the results of some death investigations.

According to the four military services, there were 289 suicides among active duty troops in 2013, down from 343 in 2012. The vast majority were in the Army, the nation’s largest military service. The Navy saw a 25 percent decline, from 59 in 2012 to 44 in 2013. The Marines went from 48 to 45, while the Air Force went from 51 to 49.