Potential Army suicides more than doubled in May compared to the previous month and are up significantly for 2009, according the U.S. Defense Department.
The Army reported one confirmed suicide and 16 potential cases among active-duty soldiers last month. In April, there were a total of eight cases - three confirmed and five still under investigation, according to the Pentagon.
In all, there have been 82 reported suicides in 2009 - 45 confirmed, 37 pending review. During the same period in 2008, there were 51 cases among soldiers.
In January, the Army implemented a branch-wide effort to deal with the growing number of suicides, including the creation of a suicide prevention task force and the hiring of more counselors.
"We have got to do better," Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli said in a statement. "It's clear we have not found full solutions to this yet. But we are trying every remedy and seeking help from outside agencies that are experts in suicide prevention. There isn't a reasonable suicide prevention tool out there the Army won't potentially employ."
The spike in suicides is also seen among reservists not on active duty. In 2009, there have been 37 cases - 16 confirmed and 21 potential - compared to 23 suicides for the same period in 2008.
"As hard as this problem truly is, in some ways it is also very basic, because it requires caring for soldiers, and that's something we already know how to do," said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "We must simultaneously get back to basics and optimize current programs to set conditions for future programs to tackle this problem."
The report on suicides follows comments by the top U.S. war zone commander in the Middle East that violence hit an all-time high in Afghanistan last week.
Gen. David Petraeus told an audience at the Washington think-tank Center for a New American Security Thursday that "there are still tough times ahead" in the region. He also admitted that Afghan security had deteriorated over the last two years.