Pentagon officials released the startling figure Thursday, the highest number of active-duty and reserve soldiers to commit suicide in a single month since the Army began reporting those numbers in 2009, the Washington Post reports. The July figure represents a combination of 26 active-duty suicides and twelve National Guardsmen and reservists, bringing the 2012 total to 187. To put the July figure in perspective, it was double the number of troops killed in Afghanistan in July.
“As shocking as the Army numbers are, we have no idea what the veteran numbers are,” said Tom Tarantino, legislative director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Top military officials had hoped reduced deployments and hiring of mental health care professionals would help distressed soldiers, but a major obstacle appears to be stigma associated with mental health. Army vice chief General Lloyd J. Austin III is involved in the effort to aid soldiers who may need help. He said, “We want the mind-set across our force and society at large to be that behavioral health is a routine part of what we do and who we are.”