Suicide Rate for Soldiers Has Increased

A new study shows the number of soldiers taking their own lives in Iraq and Afghanistan rose in 2005 over the previous year, but local soldiers say the study is misleading.

The study released by the Army says that the suicide rate for soldiers has increased from 11 to 12.9 per 100,000 soldiers, and while officials at Fort Rocker agree the data is correct, they say there are several important factors not taken into consideration.

Suicide rates in the Army may be on the rise from 2004 to 2005, but when you look at the bigger picture, the rates don't seem unsteady.

"Across the Army, suicide rates for the past 25 years remained relatively steady at 12.5 percent," said Col. George Bilafer, Ft. Rucker Deputy Commander.

The number may seem high, but soldiers say when they are placed in the middle of battle stress levels increase drastically.

"Anytime your deployed in war stress will increase, away from family stress increases because you don’t have that support network," said Joe Bruhl, Ft. Rucker Aide-de-Camp.

While 12.9 individuals out of every 100,000 may seem high, it is not even close to the national civilian average of 19.8 of every 100,000 residents. The Army attributes its lower numbers to their active training programs.

"All parts of the program. Leaders and soldiers receive training to look out for warning signs," said Col. Bilafer.

Soldiers are armed with this knowledge before they are deployed to war in an effort to help them cope with stress. They are aware that they will face hardships during battle and the Army wants them to know in advance what to look for in an effort to prevent suicides.

"Cries for help, hopelessness, and different signs are quiet ones, they withdraw as a leader, you have to be listening," said Bruhl.

Officials at Fort Rucker say they can truly help soldiers if they open up to them. But that's not always easy to do during battle.

The Army offers counseling to any and all soldiers who feel they need someone to talk to for added support.

Officials at Fort Rucker say each group deployed to war has a chaplain and he or she can help soldiers through those difficult times.

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