Military Suicides Hit Record Of 349 In 2012

We’ve noted before the problem of suicides among active duty service members, now we know that 2012 saw the highest number of such deaths ever recorded:.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Suicides in the U.S. military surged to a record 349 last year, far exceeding American combat deaths in Afghanistan, and some private experts are predicting the dark trend will grow worse this year.

The Pentagon has struggled to deal with the suicides, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and others have called an epidemic. The problem reflects severe strains on military personnel burdened with more than a decade of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, complicated by anxiety over the prospect of being forced out of a shrinking force.

Pentagon figures obtained Monday by The Associated Press show that the 349 suicides among active-duty troops last year were up from 301 the year before and exceeded the Pentagon’s own internal projection of 325. Statistics alone do not explain why troops take their own lives, and the Pentagon’s military and civilian leaders have acknowledged that more needs to be done to understand the causes.

Last year’s total is the highest since the Pentagon began closely tracking suicides in 2001. It exceeds the 295 Americans who died in Afghanistan last year, by the AP’s count.

Some in Congress are pressing the Pentagon to do more.

Is this the end product of ten years of endless war and repeated deployments? I don’t know, but these are 349 lives that should still be among us. It strikes me that we owe it to all of our men and women in service to figure out what we can do to stop this and to help people who apparently have come so far to the end of their rope that their rope that they feel compelled to take their own life.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    It’s the never ending deployments. I was in the military from 1968 – 1972. If you were drafted, 2 years, or enlisted, 3 years you knew you were only going to have one deployment to Vietnam unless you volunteered for another. I can’t imagine the stress of being sent into harms way over and over again.

  2. Scott says:

    Here is a heart-breaking story in Sunday’s San Antonio Express-News:

    I think the services are trying a lot of avenues. Everybody is being trained to watch the signs. However, after leaving the service, it becomes much harder to follow up. All want to do more but what that is, is the question all wants to answer.

  3. Ron,

    I don’t doubt that’s a part of it. A friend of the family has a Grandson who has done three tours of duty in either Afghanistan or Iraq. I can’t imagine what that does to a person.

  4. It’s the product of being underpaid and at constant risk of losing our benefits lol. My civilian co-workers do the same job….and get 3 times the pay I get in a paycheck. Explain that away. When you keep your military just above the poverty level….this is what you get.

  5. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I have nieces and nephews that I only get to see twice per year, tops, and it is always amazing how much they’ve grown and developed in between visits. I can’t even imagine missing months and years of your own child’s development – being a virtual stranger to you own eight year old son because you’ve been deployed for about 6 1/2 years of his life, and if you keep on a career soldier, who knows how much more you’re going to miss?

    Its unfathomable to me. When people fall back onto “yeah, but they volunteer for this, they know the costs” I want to smack them – an eighteen year old can anticipate that when he’s 28 and half-way through his career, he’s going to have kids who mostly know him from pictures? How does anyone prepare for that?

    I think these serial deployments are indefensible.

  6. superdestroyer says:

    What people seem to be forgetting is that the military is beginning a draw down and it is doing it during a mediocre economy. Suicides will go up as the military begins to seriously downsize and starts laying off people.

  7. J-Dub says:

    Assuming they follow up on their promise to hire any veteran that wants a job then kudos to Walmart. Although the vets will still have to live in poverty.

  8. stonetools says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Exactly right, Ron. And the soldiers have to keep re-upping because the civilian economy is so bad. Its either risk penury or risk psychological harm.

    The downside of a volunteer military is that you get those who have to “volunteer”.

  9. Rob in CT says:

    This is one more reason I worry about foreverwar.

  10. Barry says:

    @superdestroyer: For possibly the second time ever, I agree with Superdestroyer.

    And (pardon me for being cynical), there’ll be a lot of soldier who are largely, ah – ‘used up’ by now. Massive physical and mental problems. They’ll be first on the list to be laid off, and then SOL in the civilian job market. That’s got to weigh on peoples’ minds.

  11. Barry says:

    @J-Dub: “Assuming they follow up on their promise to hire any veteran that wants a job then kudos to Walmart. Although the vets will still have to live in poverty.”

    Let’s see:

    Poliicies which have been proven to be deliberately designed to force people with disabilities out of their jobs.