The number of active-duty Army service members who died by their own hands in 2012 potentially has surpassed the number killed in action, according to data from the Pentagon. And as the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan declined in 2012 from the previous year, the number of suspected suicides has risen.
Preliminary information released by the Army in December showed that, as of November, there have been 177 suspected active-duty suicides: 113 have been confirmed as suicides, while 64 remained under investigation. Among not-on-active-duty service members (Army National Guard and Army Reserve) there have been 126 suspected suicides: 97 have been confirmed as suicides and 29 were under investigation.
In contrast, the Department of Defense said 295 Americans were killed in Afghanistan in 2012, out of a total 394 ISAF forces killed while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
U.S. Army officials have been worried about the suicide rate despite the military's efforts to increase outreach and programs aimed at recognizing troubled service members.
In late September, the Army ordered a service-wide "stand down" requiring soldiers to put aside their usual duties and spend time discussing suicide prevention, including how to identify signs of trouble with their comrades.
Military leaders have wrestled with ways to identify factors that trigger suicides.
The Associated Press reported that while suicide has been linked to combat stress, many of the victims are soldiers who have never deployed. Other pressures - health, marital or financial problems - are suspected causes.