Suicides are surging

among our troops.

Our grateful Ruling Class’ solution: Keep them in Afghanistan, launch more wars, bury them in landfills, reduce their numbers to 1940 level and demand they make bricks without straw, cut their benefits, blow off any public acknowledgement of troops living and dead and instead go golfing on Memorial Day and fundraising on D-Day.

People are just flesh and blood. They can only take so much before they crack.

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  • dpt

    Send this article to your congress representative and senators and let them know it is time to bring our troops home.

  • Eoin Suibhne

    There is much honor in military service, but most of those who so revere the military cannot seem to understand how our servicemen are being abused these days. It is a major disconnect. My grandfather fought in the Battle of the Bulge and my uncle fought in Vietnam and I am grateful that they did, but now I cringe when I learn of a young man or woman who has decided to enter the military; not because it is a dishonorable thing in itself — it is not — but because wicked leaders hide behind the veneer of honor and use the military for their own wicked ends. There is truth in that Iron Maiden song that sings, “We oil the jaws of the war machine and feed it with our babies.”

  • William

    “Live by the sword, die by the sword!” (Mt 26:52)

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    It is significant that the reported statistics are *numbers of suicides and not the suicide rate. The number is dependent upon the base. We also see the silly “compared to this time last year” kind of “analysis” popular among financial wonks and the like. The news story added that the numbers include personnel not deployed to Afghanistan; i.e., those posted in Europe, America, and elsewhere.

    When we read:
    “Because suicides had leveled off in 2010 and 2011, this year’s upswing has caught some officials by surprise.”
    the knowledgeable reader immediately suspects random fluctuations. Only journalists and related species seem to assume that the numbers should be constant from one period to the next. Or that “%increase” is especially meaningful when the numbers are small to begin with. Dr. Rosalyn Yalow used to give a talk on Poisson statistics using childhood leukemia in a restricted geographical area. The data exhibited “significant” swings to the naive reader.

    More recently, USA Today pulled the “High Suicide Rate” meme on police officers. The rate for cops (18.0) was much higher than for the general population (11.1). However, the general population contains far more women (4.2) and children than do the police forces. The suicide rate for men aged 25-44 is 22.2. It would be interesting to learn what rate/100,000 would be 154 suicides out of 1.4 million active-duty military.

    Oh, wait. That would be around 11.0. If we double that to account for the rest of the year, that would come to around 22.0. And compared to young men in general………. Hmm.

  • Kevin

    William, what precisely do you mean to convey with that proof-text?

  • “Joe”

    When I met with my wounded soldiers in Afghanistan a few years back, many who had injuries from IEDs which can lead to brain injuries, I always felt badly, not just for their wounds, but because I could not guarantee them that they would receive quality care for their injuries. Now after 11 1/2 years of continuous war we now want to charge them for their health care!!!! they say these troops have received a “sweet deal” because fellow Americans have to pay a lot for their care. You want my health care plan? Enlist, patrol Kandahar and Ghazni provinces for a few years and you can have the same health care plan as as mine!!!

  • Orsa

    Yo Old Stat, maybe the baseline should be suicides prior to 12 years of war? Also when they enlist they are not considered hi- risk for suicide. So their rate may actually be high.

  • Orsa

    Also Ye Ols Stat, their are not 1.4 million soldiers on active duty! The Army and Marines who are soon the majority of the fighting, there are about 720,000 active duty troops. The numbers of troops who have fought in AFG and Iraq is much lower than 720k. More like 100k on the ground Your research is fundamentally flawed based on incorrect numbers.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Oh, dear. But the numbers came from the AP story linked above. “Active duty” does not mean only “combat duty.” And the suicides are not solely committed by those who have been in combat, but include those in domestic bases, in Europe, Korea, etc. So the total size of the military, as reported in the same article that reported the suicides, would seem appropriate. And the rate seems similar to that for young men as a whole, including those who have never enlisted.
      The warning flag was that they were reporting numbers rather than rates and were getting all excited about “this time last year” comparisons. Everyone knows that in a constant system of chance causes — that is, one in which the mean value is constant from time to time — variation around the mean will exhibit random fluctuations. That is, the annual numbers will go up and down, so there is no great shock when the article says, “Because suicides had leveled off in 2010 and 2011, this year’s upswing has caught some officials by surprise.” since that is exactly what one would expect. In fact, 2010 was lower than 2009, which was almost as high as 2012. So the pattern was 2008-UP-2009-Down-2010-up-2011-Up.
      The article was honest enough to recognize that the economy and personal finances might have been a stressor, since not all suicides were on combat duty.

      A bar chart (a bar chart!? LOL) that accompanies the article shows the numbers. If we assume the base [number in military] is relatively constant, we can run a moving range estimate for the short-term variation. Eyeballing the chart, the Army figures for June 3 YTD are 54, 78, 63, 66, 80 which gives a mean value of 68.2. The moving ranges are 24, 15, 3, 14, for a median range of 14.5. The 3σ-limits of random variation would be 68.2 +/- 3.14*14.5 = (22.7, 113.7) The 1σ-limits would be (53.0, 83.4) and would include about two-thirds of all random fluctuations. In fact, it neatly brackets all five data points. Thus, there is no reason for the headline-y angst over a “surge” in suicides. Statistically, there is no reason at first blush to suppose that a special, assignable cause accounts for any year-to-year fluctuation. Rather, a chance combination of common, random causes.
      + + +
      One remembers fondly the oft-reported “factoid” from a number of years back that “160,000 Vietnam veterans have committed suicide since returning from the war.”
      At the time, this would have meant roughly 15 vet suicides per day for 30 yrs! Yet it was one of those things that “everyone knew” because of the dominant paradigm regarding “crazed Vietnam veterans.” The CDC estimated that suicides comprised 1.2% of vet deaths, which would put the figure at 3,750 suicides rather than 160,000, an overestimate of about: 4200%

  • Orsa

    Ye Old Stat. Your numbers are WRONG which will lead to an incorrect conclusion. Do the research please. I do not disagree about the poor and sensationalist press reporting but your numbers about 1.4 million active duty members are wrong, incorrect, inaccurate, not right which will throw off your suicide rates.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    But if the news story is wrong when it says:
    “The numbers [of suicides] are rising among the 1.4 million active-duty military personnel despite years of effort to encourage troops to seek help with mental health problems. “
    how can we trust it when it says suicides numbered 154? It is already clear that they are not “rising” in any meaningful sense; and the back of the envelope figures, assuming both the 154 and the 1.4 million are correct, are in line with suicide rates among young men in general.
    Is there some other source for both sets of figures?

  • Orsa

    The number of active duty military is about 1.4 million. I am sorry.

  • Richard Johnson

    Our soldiers are committing suicide. Young people taking their own lives. And yet, there’s more angst about the stats behind the report than about the deaths and those who have to deal with the aftermath of them.

    Tell me, Ye Old Statistician, are these people or numbers to you? As the father of an active duty soldier who is about to deploy, I’d really appreciate your thoughts on that.

  • Richard Johnson

    I believe that there are other factors that need to be considered as well, though I suspect Ye Old Statistician will dismiss spin these numbers as irrelevant as well.

    “According to the report, hospitalizations with a diagnosis of “suicidal ideation” rose to more than 3,500 in 2010 from nearly zero in 2005.

    More troops are getting treatment — a positive sign that the stigma of seeing help is disappearing, Chiarelli argued. Overall, about 280,000 troops sought behavioral treatment in 2011.

    Other measures show an Army population that is struggling.

    Violent sex crime was up 64 percent from 2006 to 2011
    Domestic violence rose 33 percent from 2006 to 2011.
    Child abuse rose 43 percent in the same time period.”

    But it’s just numbers, right Statistician?