Soldier suicides in Iraq up again

Posted on: Monday, January 1, 2007-
WASHINGTON � Suicides among soldiers sent to Iraq swung back up in 2005 after a decline, and Army officials said last month it was difficult to interpret the development.

Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the Army surgeon general, said suicides climbed to a rate of 19.9 per 100,000 in 2005, just above the 18.8 rate of 2003. It had fallen to 10.5 in 2004.

The actual number of suicides in Iraq were 25 soldiers in 2003, 12 in 2004 and 22 in 2005.

“We consider one suicide to be too many,” Kiley told Pentagon reporters in releasing a mental health survey, taken a year ago but made public last month. It contains the most recent figures the military has made available.

Kiley said it is difficult to interpret the change because such wide variations are typical in statistics when such small numbers are involved.

The main reasons for the suicides were relationship problems, legal problems and problems with other soldiers, according to the survey.

The rate of suicide was higher for troops in Iraq than other soldiers � 19.9 per 100,000 compared to 13 per 100,000 for the overall Army. Kiley noted that those in Iraq are carrying weapons.

Kiley’s office established mental health teams after the start of the war, and they have been taking annual surveys � the latest polled nearly 1,500 soldiers and more than 400 healthcare providers in October and November 2005.

Other findings in the report:

# Troops involved in training Iraqi security forces reported higher morale than those serving on combat teams,.

# 95 percent of troops reported that mental healthcare is readily available to them.

# The number of those who felt that seeking help was a sign of weakness declined to 28 percent from 35 percent.

# 13.6 percent of soldiers reported acute stress symptoms such as nightmares or reliving an incident, and 16.5 percent reported a combination of depression, anxiety and acute stress.

# Troops sent a second time to Iraq reported greater stress rates than first-timers. Some 12 percent serving their initial deployment reported acute stress, compared to 18.4 percent of those serving a repeat deployment.

Associated Press

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