According to a distressing new Pentagon assessment, more members of the US military committed suicide in the second quarter of this year than died from the coronavirus for the whole of the outbreak.
Between the beginning of April and the end of June 2021, there were 139 total military suicides – 99 in active service, 14 among reservists, and 26 in the National Guard – the latest report from the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) says.
The statistics released show a 46% surge in suicides among the US Army active-duty forces over the same span of time in 2020.
The new figures also mean that suicides in just that calendar quarter amount to more than double the official death toll from Covid-19 in the armed forces, which the Pentagon has put at 58 so far.
The Defense Department’s 2020 annual report on military suicides, published at the end of September, showed 580 such deaths over the course of 2020 – corrected to 581 in the latest quarterly – up from 505 total the year before.
While the rate of suicides among reservists and the National Guard has stayed “statistically flat” since 2016, the active-duty force saw a significant increase, Dr. Karin Orvis, who took over as chief of the DSPO in 2019, said. The rate of suicides in active service was 28.7 per 100,000 in 2020, the highest since detailed records started being kept in 2008, when it was 16.9 per 100,000.
Enlisted men under the age of 30 were at highest risk, making up 42% of the total military population in 2020, but accounting for 63% of military suicides that year, Orvis said. The Army’s suicide rate of 36.4 per 100,000 was nearly double that of the Navy’s 19.3.
The results for the second quarter of 2021 predate the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, which began in August. Suicides linked to the Kabul airlift and the conclusion of the 20-year conflict would be counted in the next quarterly report.