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Army sets grim record with 32 suicides in July

WASHINGTON — The Army had a record 32 suicides in July, the most since it began releasing monthly figures in 2009.

The high number of deaths represents a setback for the Army, which has put a heavy focus on reducing suicides in recent years. The number included 22 active-duty soldiers and 10 reservists. The previous record was 31 in June 2010.

Army officials cautioned that investigations are under way in most of the deaths to confirm the exact cause.

"Every suicide represents a tragic loss," Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff of the Army, said in a statement. "While the high number of potential suicides in July is discouraging, we are confident our efforts … are having a positive impact."

Over the past several years, the Army has launched a major effort to institute new training to improve soldiers' ability to bounce back from stress and setbacks in combat and in their personal lives. It has hired hundreds of mental health and substance abuse counselors and has launched a push to convince soldiers that seeking help for mental health problems will not have a negative impact on their careers.

The service also has tapped the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct a five-year, $50 million study and statistical analysis of suicide in the Army, an effort that includes surveys, data mining and medical testing.

Chiarelli has devoted hundreds of hours to studying the suicide problem and its possible links to post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries caused by battlefield explosions.

So far, the efforts have not resulted in a significant change in the suicide rate in the Army.

Army sets grim record with 32 suicides in July 08/12/11 [Last modified: Saturday, August 13, 2011 12:25am]

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