Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Something Happening There...Suicides in Iraq

This isn't good, especially with all the attention the military has been putting on the psychological well-being of our military.
At least 21 U.S. troops have committed suicide in Iraq, a growing toll that represents one in seven of American "non-hostile" deaths since the war began last March, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

The Defense Department's top health official said the military plan to deal with "battle stress" in Iraq more aggressively than in past conflicts such as the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War.

"Fighting this kind of war is clearly going to be stressful for some people," Assistant Defense Secretary for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder told reporters in an interview.

"There have been about 21 confirmed suicides during the past year associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom," Winkenwerder said, adding that 18 were Army troops and three others were in the Navy and Marine Corps.

The suicide toll is probably higher than 21, he added, because some "pending" non-hostile death cases are still being investigated.
And it's getting worse:
The 21 suicides so far represent nearly 14 percent of non-hostile deaths, an increase over the proportion of 11 percent as of three months ago when the suicide number totaled 13.
The good news is that even if their spirits are broken, we're saving more of their bodies:
emergency military medical teams stationed in Iraq, combined with new body armor and other protective devices, had resulted in a sharply lower death rate among wounded soldiers compared to past wars.

In addition to the death toll, more than 2,400 troops have been wounded in Iraq since the war began.

"Clearly the body armor helps" in saving lives, Winkenwerder said. But he stressed that emergency medical teams were a key factor in preventing death from blood loss in the "golden hour" after a soldier was wounded.
UPDATE: More here in the Washington Post.