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US Army suicides continues to surge

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
U.S. Army Reserve soldiers walk through a cloud of dust during the Rising Phoenix Battalion March in Buckeye, Arizona on September 18, 2022. (File photo)

The number of suicides in the US Army, the military’s largest branch, continued to increase in 2021, newly released Pentagon data shows, registering 176 cases.

The findings come as the Army has struggled to find ways to boost quality of life for soldiers, an effort senior military leaders have touted as the key to improving mental health in the force, news outlet reported Friday.

The rate of suicide in the US National Guard force has also remained “relatively unchanged” for a decade, according to the report as Pentagon planners are seemingly unable to get proper resources to part-time troops, and that's partly due to the various duty statuses they operate under.

Suicides in the Army National Guard make up the overwhelming majority with 102 deaths in 2021, according to the Pentagon data. The Air National Guard saw 15 deaths by suicide. Both of those figures are relatively unchanged from 2020, with 105 and 16 suicides, respectively.

The suicide data comes as the Army also saw a massive spike in reports of sexual assault -- a 25.6% increase in 2021 compared to the previous year -- that far outpaced the other services.

The service has been slowly adjusting its sexual assault and prevention strategy in the wake of the brutal slaying of Spc. Vanessa Guillén at Fort Hood, Texas, in April 2020 and a follow-on investigation that found the Army to be severely lacking in its ability to protect victims. Army officials have yet to outline any major changes.

The report noted, however, that the overall suicide rate in all US military branches showed a 15-percent decline in 2021.

For sexual assault reporting, the Navy saw an increase of 9.2%, and the Marines and Air Force 2%, respectively.

The bulk of suicides across all branches involve enlisted men using personally owned firearms. Most suicides in the military are unlikely to be related to combat trauma, and many service members who have died had no downrange experience. Instead, some military leaders have pointed to troubled finances, rocky relationships and other personal factors.

Some services have struggled to communicate with their rank and file and the public about suicide in their formations. was first to report on the miserable conditions among the crew assigned to the USS George Washington -- an aircraft carrier that had at least eight sailors die by suicide since November 2019.

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