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American soldiers' suicide rate in Iraq unusually high

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  • thekoba@aztecfreenet.org
    First an announcement. The Free Arab Voice, after an hiatus of several months, is once again publishing reports of the activities of the Iraqi resistance.
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 14, 2003
      First an announcement. The Free Arab Voice, after an hiatus of several
      months, is once again publishing reports of the activities of the Iraqi
      resistance. The website address is www.freearabvoice.org

      The following article, attributed to Greg Zoroya of USA Today, appeared on
      page A14 of the Monday, October 13, 2003 edition of the Arizona Republic.
      It should be noted that in addition to these "official" suicides among
      American soldiers in Iraq, there have been many deaths classified as resulting
      from "non-hostile gunshot wounds". This would seem to imply either confused
      soldiers shooting each other or accidental discharge of firearms, but many
      of these may also be suicides. In all fairness to the Pentagon (not that
      they deserve any fairness), it is sometimes difficult to tell if a self-
      inflicted gunshot wound was accidental or a suicide. Ernest Hemmingway's
      death was ruled accidental, but many have speculated that he may have shot
      himself deliberately.

      --Kevin Walsh


      Alarmed by the number of suicides among soldiers in Iraq, the Army has asked
      a team of doctors to determine if the stress of combat and long deployments
      is a contributing factor.

      "The number of suicides has caused the Army to be concerned," said Lieutenant
      Colonel Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, a psychiatrist at the Army's Uniformed
      Services University in Bethesda, Maryland, who is helping to investigate the
      suicides in Iraq.

      "Is there something different going on in Iraq that we really need to pay
      attention to?"

      In the past seven months, at least eleven soldiers and three Marines have
      committed suicide in Iraq, military officials say. That is an annual rate
      of 17 per 100,000. The Navy also is investigating one possible suicide.
      And about a dozen Army deaths are under investigation and could include

      The numbers suggest the rate in Iraq is above normal. Last year, the
      military services reported between eight and nine suicides per 100,000
      people. Ther Army rate is usually higher, between 10 and 13 per 100,000,
      which mirrors the public rate for the same age group.

      Army officials caution against drawing general conclusions based on small
      changes. But they sent a mental health team to Iraq last month to look into
      a variety of issues, including suicides and treatment available for
      soldiers suffering from depression. The team consists of psychologists,
      psychiatrists, social workers and the manager of the Army's suicide
      prevention program. The team has surveyed 700 soldiers and conducted
      focus-group discussions with GIs.

      "They are ... looking at the stresses on the troops, how well the troops
      are coping and how well the basic principles of battlefield psychiatry
      are working," Ritchie said.

      Most of the suicides have occurred since May 1, after major combat operations

      Experts say harsh and dangerous living conditions combined with a long
      deployment can worsen depression.

      The accessibility of weapons in a war zone can quickly turn a passing
      thought into action.

      "It just takes a second to pull it out and put it to your head and pull
      the trigger," Ritchie said.

      The Army has sent home 478 soldiers from Iraq for mental health issues.
      Officials say that in previous wars, many of those cases would be treated in
      the war zone. The Army does not have enough mental health resources in
      Iraq to treat many of the cases.

      In 2001, the Army responded to a 26 percent increase in active-duty
      suicides between 1997 and 1999 by implementing a suicide prevention program.
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