US Special Forces struggle with record rate of suicides

Click to enlarge – “Have to trust someone to be betrayed. I never did.”

Suicides among U.S. special operations forces, including elite Navy SEALs and Army Rangers, are at record levels, a U.S. military official said on Thursday, citing the effects of more than a decade of “hard combat.”

The number of special operations forces committing suicide has held at record highs for the past two years, said Admiral William McRaven, who leads the Special Operations Command…

It may take a year or more, he said, to assess the effects of sustained combat on special operations units, whose missions range from strikes on militants such as the 2011 SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden to assisting in humanitarian disasters.

He did not provide data on the suicide rate, which the U.S. military has been battling to lower. In 2012, for example, more active duty servicemen and servicewomen across the U.S. armed forces died by suicide – an estimated 350 – than died in combat, a U.S. defense official said.

That trend appears to have held in 2013 although preliminary data is showing a slight improvement, with 284 suicides among active duty forces in the year to December 15, the official added…

Kim Ruocco, who assists the survivors of military members who commit suicide, said members of the closely knit special operations community often fear that disclosing their symptoms will end their careers.

Additionally, the shrinking size of the U.S. armed forces has put additional pressure on soldiers, whose sense of community and self-identity is often closely tied to their military service, said Ruocco, director of suicide prevention programs for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, an advocacy group for military families.

It’s my guess that disclosing fear, suicidal tendencies, any questions of survival will absolutely be interpreted as weakness and inability to make “the mission” more important than life itself. Very few military units have ever developed an understanding of human emotions beyond convincing troops that killing folks is more important than anything else.

3 thoughts on “US Special Forces struggle with record rate of suicides

  1. angrymanspeaks says:

    Who goes to war? These days it’s volunteers.
    Why do they volunteer?
    Well of course a few are born killers looking for a legal outlet for their urges.
    The majority though are just miss-led teenagers. Some who think war will be an adventure and very cool and the rest because they feel obligated to give up their life out of some sick sense of gratitude to America, or something.
    Of course the military is smaller. You can only deceive so many people in any one population into dying a horrible screaming death for your political gain.
    If the real purpose of the military was the defense of America, it might be a more popular choice. Knowing that your government will only send you to war here; if attacked on our soil.
    When you know that you might die or linger in pain for life or be captured and tortured just because a George W. Bush wanted to seek vengeance for the insults his father suffered 15 years before or because some giant American corporation needs what is under the soil of a helpless foreign nation that we can come to the “rescue” of; it somehow dulls the sparkle and dignity of the Military.

  2. Drive on says:

    “Occupational differences in US Army suicide rates.” In “Psychological Medicine” November 2015 “There were 496 suicides over the study period. Only two occupational categories, both in combat arms, had significantly elevated suicide rates: infantrymen and combat engineers. However, the suicide rates in these two categories were significantly lower when currently deployed than never deployed or previously deployed, whereas the suicide rate of other soldiers was significantly higher when currently deployed and previously deployed than never deployed, resulting in the adjusted suicide rate of infantrymen and combat engineers being most elevated when never deployed, less so when previously deployed, and not at all when currently deployed. Adjustment for a differential ‘healthy warrior effect’ cannot explain this variation in the relative suicide rates of never-deployed infantrymen and combat engineers by deployment status.” Re: ‘healthy warrior effect’ see “Psychiatric Diagnoses in Historic and Contemporary Military Cohorts: Combat Deployment and the Healthy Warrior Effect” “…The disproportionate loss of psychologically unfit personnel early in training creates a “healthy warrior effect,” because only those persons who have proven their resilience during training remain eligible for combat.”

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