The Military's Invisible War - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Anchor Tony McEwing

The Military's Invisible War

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It's a war that very few people know about and even fewer people are writing or talking about. And yet this war claimed far more lives in our military last year than American combat deaths in Afghanistan. In 2012 the number of suicides in the U.S. military soared to 349. Compare that to the 295 Americans who died in Afghanistan the same year, according to the Associated Press.

Unfortunately, that number is not an anomaly. Indeed it seems to be reflective of a very disturbing trend that some experts predict will only grow worse.The question is why? And by all indications, the answer is very complex and controversial.

Military suicides began to rise noticeably in 2006, surging to a record 310 in 2009, a record which disturbingly has now been shattered. And now a new study suggests the exploding suicide rates may have little to do with deployment to war zones. Researchers say having  prior mental health problems of some kind, substance abuse or just being male put soldiers at a higher risk for taking their own lives. Where a soldier is deployed or whether he or she was in combat situations were not found to increase the risk of suicide.

The study concludes, among other things, screening for mental and substance use disorders and providing high-quality treatments are the best tools for reversing the alarming suicide trend. The study does have its skeptics and critics, some of whom flat out reject the researchers' findings.

I certainly don't purport to be an authority on this subject but you don't have to be an expert to recognize the military's suicide rate is a very serious problem. Whatever the reasons people have for enlisting, the fact is, those who do, perform a priceless service for our country. If they don't make this issue a top priority, our politicians and the Pentagon will do those who often sacrifice so much for our nation a monumental disservice.

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