Army Suicides in 2009 Equal Last Year's Record High

This year's suicide numbers are expected to surpass last year's.

ByABC News
November 17, 2009, 4:22 PM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2009— -- With a month and a half remaining in 2009, , the number of suicides in the Army's active duty ranks already equals last year's record high of 140 and is expected to climb, an Army official said today.

Furthermore, the 71 suicides among Army National Guardsmen and reservists not serving on active duty has already surpassed last year's total of 57. The Army's active duty numbers includes National Guardsmen and reservists who are currently serving on active duty.

As with last year's record high suicide numbers, a third of this year's 140 suicides have been among soldiers who have never deployed.

At a Pentagon briefing to talk about the Army's suicide prevention efforts, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli didn't mince words.

"This is horrible, and I do not want to downplay the significance of these numbers in any way," he said. "We talk about these incidents of suicide using figures and percentages. However, the grim reality is each case represents an individual, a person with family and friends and a future ahead of him or her. Every single loss is devastating."

Chiarelli said suicide is the single hardest issue he's ever had to face in his long military career.

"This challenge of suicides is without a doubt the toughest I have had to take and tackle in my 37 years in the Army," he said. "Each event is unique and complicated, and there are no easy answers or solutions."

Despite the rise in suicides this year, Chiarelli said he sees progress in the Army's efforts to stem the increase, noting that 40, or about a third, of this year's suicides occurred in January and February.

Since then, the numbers have reflected a downward trend throughout the year, though in October the number jumped to 16, an increase Chiarelli said he hopes was an aberration.

"If you were to simply consider these months [January and February] or the total number for the year, you could erroneously conclude that the Army's efforts are not working," Chiarelli said.