(WASHINGTON) — The Pentagon announced Thursday that the suicide rate among active duty soldiers and those in the National Guard and Reserve had fallen in 2011 for the first time in four years.
Suicides dropped nine percent, from 305 in 2010 to 278 last year. However, the number of soldiers killing themselves is far higher than the 200 suicides reported in 2008.
Still, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the outgoing vice chief of staff, praised the military’s efforts to really begin addressing the problem by identifying soldiers engaged in risky or self-destructive behavior.
Chiarelli said, “I think we’ve at least arrested this problem and hopefully will start to push it down. For all practical purposes … it has leveled off.”
Overall, the Army’s rate of suicides is 24 per 100,000 soliders, but it’s much higher among those who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan — 38 per 100,000. Both rates are higher than that of the civilian population, which is 19 suicides per 100,000.
The wars and multiple deployments are blamed for the rise of suicide deaths as well as for an increase in sexual assaults and instances of domestic and child abuse.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
Jason Hanna, Madison Park and Steve Almasy, CNN
Ed Lavandera, Boris Sanchez, Madison Park and Holly Yan, CNN