It’s not supposed to happen this way. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan draw to a close, the stress on America’s military should be easing. But Pentagon statistics obtained by Robert Burns of the Associated Press on Friday show that there were 154 suicides in the first 155 days of 2012. The external enemy is not the primary reason for the body bags anymore; suicides are exceeding combat deaths in Afghanistan by 50 percent.
It isn’t for lack of attention that the numbers come as such a shock. The most disturbing aspect of these disclosures is that they involved active-duty members. This means that they are wards of the Pentagon, in many respects. And while the Pentagon has made serious and sustained efforts to address suicide, the numbers suggest that the message isn’t taking hold. These efforts still seem to be viewed as civilian answers to a military problem. Suicide prevention must become, in military speak, a core mission.