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US military suicides rise to almost one a day in 2012

Pentagon figures show 154 US troops on active duty killed themselves in the first 155 days of 2012, one of the highest military suicide rates in years.

Military veteran suicides 2012 02 08Enlarge
Some soldiers who survived the war have returned to a new, difficult battle at home. (MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Suicides among US military personnel are at their highest rate in years, according to the latest Pentagon statistics.

Official figures obtained by the Associated Press show that 154 troops on active duty killed themselves in the first 155 days of 2012.

More from GlobalPost: US military suicides high even as wars wind down

That's more than died in action in Afghanistan – 50 percent more, according to the AP.

In comparison, there were 130 active-duty suicides in the same period, Jan. 1 to June 3, last year. In 2010, there were 123.

The causes of the increase are hard to establish.

Time's Battleland blog suggests that what it calls the suicide "epidemic" could be connected to the lengthy combats in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have seen a relatively small number of US troops sent back for multiple tours of duty.

"Repeated tours have driven up the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder, which, in turn, generates an increase in suicide attempts among those suffering from PTSD," Battleland said.

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Meanwhile the head of the Pentagon's Defense Suicide Prevention Office, Jackie Garrick, told the AP that the economic recession could be a factor in this year's high suicide rate, which comes even as US deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down.

As GlobalPost reported in February, military suicides have been rising alarmingly among both active-duty troops and veterans for most of the past decade, despite the efforts of official prevention programs. 

For five years, beginning in 2005, a service member died by suicide every 36 hours, according to a report by the Center for New American Security.

And while it said it was "impossible," given the lack of data, to accurately determine the number of veterans that have killed themselves, the report said that the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that a veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120608/us-military-suicides-rise-2012