In an alarming update from the Pentagon, suicide rates among active-duty military personnel saw a 25% rise in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same period last year.
The suicide rate data was revealed in the recent quarterly report by the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, which found the total number of active-duty suicides was recorded at 94, up from 75 during the first quarter of 2022.
“Every death by suicide is a tragedy,” the report said. “Data includes all known or suspected suicides (both confirmed and pending) as of March 31, 2023.”
According to Starts and Stripes, the Army suffered the most significant surge in suicide deaths, with an increase from 37 to 49.
Meanwhile, the Marine Corps saw an increase from eight to 14. The Air Force had one more suicide compared to 2022, and there was no change in the suicide rates within either the Navy or Space Force.
The Pentagon’s data shows a rising trend in military suicides over the past decade, including a pronounced spike in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Beth Foster, executive director of the Pentagon’s Force Resiliency Office, spoke to this growing concern, saying, “There is still a gradual increasing trend for suicide in the military over a 10-year period, and we need to see a sustained long-term reduction in suicide rates to know if we’re really making progress.”
In response to the concerning increase in suicides, the Defense Department enacted the Brandon Act in May, which allows troops to seek mental health services confidentially and whenever needed.
The Act is named after Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Caserta, who tragically took his own life in 2018.
Pentagon’s Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee, established to find more effective suicide prevention methods, has recommended imposing restrictions on troops’ access to firearms, enforcing waiting periods for gun and ammunition purchases and raising the minimum buying age to 25. The Pentagon is currently reviewing the recommendations.
The Defense Suicide Prevention Office noted that the numbers in the report are preliminary and are subject to change upon further investigations and reports of previously unknown suicide cases. The Pentagon’s comprehensive yearly study on military suicides, set to analyze the data from 2022, is due for release in October.
Service members and veterans in need of immediate help can reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 988 and pressing “1,” or text 838255, or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net.