Military Matters: Troop Suicides Hit Record High In 2012
Last year, there was a military suicide for nearly every day of the year.
Pentagon figures show there were a record 349 suicides among active duty troops in 2012.
The number exceeds the 295 Americans who died in combat in Afghanistan last year.
Four soldiers from Fort Drum were among the service members who took their own lives.
Fort Drum says it's unclear why the number of suicides is rising as combat operations overseas wind down.
"I don't know what the reasoning is. I wish I could give you a better answer than that. I know we're doing what we can with prevention and we're constantly training the troops on how to identify soldiers at risk," said Dr. Todd Benham, chief of Behavioral Health at Fort Drum.
Kim Ruocco lost her husband, a Marine pilot, to suicide in 2005.
She now works with family members of troops who took their own lives.
She says one the most important things the military can do is to offer care, fast.
"Most people don't want to get the help so by the time they ask for it, they've often let illness or injury go untreated for a long time. They need that help immediately," said Ruocco, national director of Suicide Education and Outreach for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
To help Fort Drum soldiers get treatment faster, the post is bringing in behavioral health teams at the brigade level.
"That is a team designed to really interact with the command and the soldiers and when they're doing that they're really finding out what's going on in the unit, what the training schedule is like, what the climate is like, any issues or concerns that are going on," said Dr. Benham.
The new behavioral health teams are expected to be in place sometime this summer.
The number of military suicides is lower than the civilian population.
The Pentagon says the civilian suicide rate for males aged 17-60 was 25 per 100,000 in 2010, the latest year for which such statistics are available.
That compares with the military's rate in 2012 of 17.5 per 100,000.