Statistics released by the Pentagon suggests that suicide the leading cause of death among American soldiers deployed to the Middle East to assist in the battle Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in Operation Inherent Resolve.
The nature of the fighting between Islamic State and the American armed forces have meant that American deaths have been a rarity in this current conflict. The Americans have generally been operating from the air when they have been involved in direct combat situations, but the vast majority of soldiers have been deployed to train America’s Iraqi allies and to perform security and logistical duties. But while the number of deaths in this conflict has been dwarfed by previous American wars in the Middle East, the number of suicides are on the rise.
According to the Pentagon, thirty-one American soldiers have died in the Middle East in the course of the past year. Of these soldiers, eight died in a combat situation, seven were killed in accidents, and four died while receiving medical care for either illness or injury, one death is currently under investigation, and the other eleven soldiers committed suicide.
Experts on mental health in the military explain that the reason for the prevalence of suicide in the armed forces is not properly understood. According to Rajeev Ramchand, a senior behavioral scientist at the Rand Corp. There are a huge number of factors in the rate of suicide among soldiers. “They are also picking up on a trend toward more suicide in the U.S. Population as a whole. Maybe there’s a universal stress on everyone in the military that affects them in profound ways, ” he said. Richmond indicated that suicides have doubled in the armed services since 2001 with the highest rates being in 2005, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the mental pressures on soldiers are still so poorly understood a retired general named Peter Chiarelli is called for renewed research incentives focussed on depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress in the armed forces. “This is an illness. It’s not because you’re weak, ” he said.
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