(WASHINGTON) — More active duty troops die from suicide than from combat, and the Pentagon chief is frustrated that efforts to prevent suicides are not succeeding. And despite the Pentagon’s efforts so far, suicides are going up among active duty troops – 25 percent higher just this spring.
Speaking at a conference on suicide prevention for service members, veterans and their families, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday called the uptick in suicides the “most frustrating challenge” of his position.
“We can do more, we must do more, and together we will do more to prevent suicides,” Panetta said, adding that “there are no easy answers here. There are no quick fixes. There are no simple solutions.”
The defense secretary said changes must start at the top. “Leaders throughout the department must make it understood that seeking help is a sign of strength not a sign of weakness,” Panetta said.
Panetta said the military now has 9,000 mental health professionals — a one-third increase — in hospitals, clinics, and even war zones.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Eric Bradner, Shimon Prokupecz and Dan Merica, CNN
Lisa Respers France and Brian Stelter, CNN
Sherisse Pham, CNN