The number of suicides in the US military, the largest branch of the military, continued to rise in 2021, according to newly released data from the Pentagon, recording 176 cases.
The findings come as the military struggles to find ways to improve soldiers’ quality of life, an effort that top military leaders have touted as key to improving mental health in the force, Military.com media reported on Friday.
The suicide rate in the U.S. National Guard has also remained “relatively unchanged” for a decade, the report says, as Pentagon planners are apparently unable to secure adequate resources for part-time troops, and that’s partly due to various service statuses. they operate under.
Suicides in the Army National Guard make up the overwhelming majority with 102 deaths in 2021, according to Pentagon data. The Air National Guard has seen 15 deaths by suicide. Both figures are relatively unchanged from 2020, with 105 and 16 suicides respectively.
The suicide data comes as the military also saw a massive increase in sexual assault reports — a 25.6% increase in 2021 from the previous year — that far outpaced other services.
The service slowly adjusted its sexual assault and prevention strategy in the wake of the brutal murder of CPS. Vanessa Guillén at Fort Hood, Texas in April 2020 and a follow-up investigation that found the military was seriously lacking in its ability to protect victims. Army officials have yet to describe any major changes.
The report, however, notes that the overall suicide rate across all branches of the US military recorded a 15% drop in 2021.
For sexual assault reports, the Navy saw a 9.2% increase, and the Marines and Air Force 2%, respectively.
The bulk of suicides in all branches involve enlisted men using personal firearms. It is unlikely that most suicides in the military are related to combat trauma, and many military personnel who died had no downstream experience. Instead, some military leaders pointed to financial difficulties, difficult relationships and other personal factors.
Some services have struggled to communicate with their base and the public about suicide in their formations. Military.com was the first to report on the miserable conditions of crew assigned to the USS George Washington – an aircraft carrier that has claimed at least eight sailors suicide since November 2019.