A shocking report concludes that members of the military committed suicide at a record pace of almost one per day in 2012, at 349 soldiers, up from last year's 301 and exceeding the Pentagon's prediction of 325.
Last year's suicide rate among active-duty troops exceeds the number of Americans who died in Afghanistan last year, which was 295.
People who work with veterans say the suicide rate could go up even more this year as returning soldiers adjust to civilian life.
NPR reports that the figures represent those in active duty and reserve, where active duty soldiers had the most suicides. While some of the deaths can be associated with the stresses of being deployed in a war zone, at least a third of those that killed themselves were never deployed. The remaining third of suicides can supposedly be attributed to troubled personal relationships, money problems or legal woes.
Sen. Patty Murray said Monday:
This is an epidemic that cannot be ignored. As our newest generation of service members and veterans face unprecedented challenges, today's news shows we must be doing more to ensure they are not slipping through the cracks.
The military has made mental health issues a greater priority since seeing a spike in suicides in 2009. Efforts include teaching soldiers how to deal with stress during boot camp.