The steady annual increase in the number of military suicides following the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan is often assumed to be caused by the trauma of combat.
But a Department of Defense study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association
concluded, from a study of 83 cases, that the leading causes of suicide among service members between 2001 and 2007 were mental-health problems and alcohol abuse – tracking with trends in the wider civilian population, where suicide rates also rose sharply between 1999 and 2010.
Still, a top former general and advocate for veteran support is wary of downplaying the link between combat trauma and suicide.
Military suicides have continued to escalate each year since the period covered by the research published last week, prompting the Pentagon last year to describe the problem as an “epidemic." The Department of Veterans Affairs reported
in February that 22 veterans commit suicide every day, compared with 18 per day in 2007. And last year, more active duty soldiers took their own lives than were killed in combat, according to the Associated Press