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US army suicide toll surpasses combat numbers

January 15, 2013 16:05 IST

Suicides in the American army reached a record 349 in 2012, far exceeding US combat deaths in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has said, with experts saying that the trends may get worse this year.

Comparatively, 229 troops were killed in the combat in Afghanistan, Washington Post reported, saying that Pentagon was grappling with an issue which senior military commanders have said has reached epidemic proportions.

Quoting Pentagon figures, the Post said that suicides by active-duty troops had increased from 301 in 2011 and the largest percentage was reported in the elite Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps, which had notable success lowering its suicide rate over the past two years, saw its 2012 number rise by 50 percent to 48 suicides, the steepest percentage increase among the services.

The US military has hired more behavioural health-care providers, embarked on a long-term study of mental health for uniformed personnel and expanded the reach of a crisis line, in an effort to curb the trend.

Corps officials say they are partnering with research organisations to understand the root causes behind the trend.

"We are deeply concerned about suicide in the military, which is one of the most urgent problems facing the department," Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia O Smith said.

"We are committed to taking care of our people, and that includes doing everything possible to prevent suicides in the military."

US Navy and Air Force, which have traditionally had a lower incidence of suicide than the Marines and Army, each recorded more suicides this year.

The Navy had 60, a 15 percent increase, and the Air Force tallied 59, a 16 per cent increase.

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