541 military service members died by suicide in 2018, DOD report shows


WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — The Defense Department’s latest report on the epidemic of active duty and reserve service members shows 541 took their own lives in 2018. The Defense Department says it’s taking further steps to address suicides, such as teaching service members ways to identify suicide “red flags.”

Despite efforts to stop them, military suicides among active service members continue to rise, according to new figures released by DOD.

“We have believed for a while that the increased stress on the troops have been a factor” said Karen Ruedisueli, National Military Family Association.

Recently three sailors serving on the same ship died from apparent suicides. Suicides among those serving our country is something that’s concerning to military officials.

“I am disheartened that the trends in the military, as in the civilian sector, are not going the desired direction,” said Dr. Karin Orvis, Defense Suicide Prevention Office.

Defense officials said their new efforts to reduce suicides include a pilot program aimed at recognizing red flags on social media and teaching people how to respond.

For the first time the defense department also released data on suicides within military families. According to the report in 2017, 186 military spouses and dependents took their own lives.

Ruedisueli said organizations like hers have programs to help with the unique challenges and stresses military families face, including summer camps for kids.

“To let them decompress and be in nature, to remove themselves from the stress that can be at home sometime,” she said.

Officials say preventing suicides among active service members and their families is a critical mission, one that the Defense Department and whole communities need to address together.

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