Conflict & Justice

US military sees record number of suicides in 2012, a 15 percent rise from the year before


A flag is seen at the temporary marker for a mass grave in Section 60, an area largely used for those who died while serving in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, at Arlington National Cemetery May 24, 2012 in Washington, DC, ahead of Memorial Day on May 28, 2012.


Brendan Smialowski

2012 was the worst year on record for suicide among active duty members of the US military, new figures revealed, with 349 suicides in 2012 alone — a 15 percent rise that far outpaces the total number of combat deaths in Afghanistan for the same year.

The Associated Press found that the Pentagon figures exceeded the military's own internal projection of 325 deaths by suicide in 2012, and was the highest recorded since 2001, when suicides first began to be closely tracked.

Read more from GlobalPost: US Army suicides up 80% since start of Iraq War

The final 2012 tally comes after a rash of preliminary reports predicting that this year would be an especially grim one for trackers of military suicide, as June Pentagon figures found that soldiers were killing themselves at a rate of nearly one a day.

Figures found that the Army, the largest division of the US military, reported the most suicides, followed by the Marine Corps, which saw the largest percentage increase.

The Military Suicide Consortium found in a recent study that the vast majority of those who attempted suicide cited "a desire to end intense emotional distress" as one of their primary reasons.

The study also found that troops who were either divorced or single were 24 percent more likely to commit suicide than their attached counterparts.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the rash of suicides an "epidemic" in July, and has called for more research into preventing such deaths, including improved mental health services.

Read more from GlobalPost: US military suicides rise to almost one a day in 2012

According to, 301 US soldiers died in Afghanistan in 2012, the second consecutive yearly decline — while suicides continue to go up. (AP counts 295 US deaths in Afghanistan in 2012).

Suicide rates in the US Army have risen by 80 percent since the beginning of the Iraq War, found the Army Public Health Command earlier this year, another depressing indicator that suicide is a massive problem among American servicemen and women.

A study conducted by Harvard University among civilian teenagers in the US found that about one in four had attempted to commit suicide.