The Missouri National Guard Has a Suicide Problem
Unfortunately, for reasons still unknown, six members of the state's National Guard have killed themselves this year. That's the most in one year since the Guard starting keeping track in 2001. Remarkably, none of the six were deployed in combat or even on active duty at the time of their deaths.
So what gives?
According to the Kansas City Star, the paper that first reported the suicide spike, the Army has no clue what's causing the sometime soldiers to take their own lives.
"Honestly, we don't know what's going on or we would solve it," said Maj. Tammy Spicer, a Missouri Guard spokeswoman.Even more mysterious (and depressing) is the fact that the problem isn't just isolated to Missouri National Guard. The Star reports that last month a total of 32 Army service men and women committed suicide. Seven of the deaths occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan and eleven were National Guard or Army reserve.
"We have 11,800 members and six took their lives. It is not a soldier in a uniform in an armory committing suicide. It is someone on off-duty status in their community with their family nearby that's making that choice," she said. "We need help in this battle."
It's the highest armed services suicide rate since Vietnam.
The Star hints at the root of the problem, writing that, "Last winter, Army officials said it needed 750 to 800 more psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and social workers."
Last May, senators Claire McCaskill and Patty Murray (a Democrat from Washington state) sponsored legislation that would have required the Department of Defense to "embed" mental health counselors in all National Guard and Reserve Units.
The bill was introduced, read twice and sent to die in the Committee on Armed Services.