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Local Study Will Look Into the Army’s High Suicide Rate

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Between 2005 and 2009, more than 1,100 troops committed suicide. This year, millions of dollars will be spent to find out why in hopes of saving lives, says Department of Veterans Affairs Dr. Peter Gutierrez, who tells 9News that, historically, soldiers have not been as prone to suicide as they are today. “Rates among active-duty personnel were significantly lower than they were among the general population,” he says.

Now, the Colorado VA has announced a new consortium that will spend $17 million in military funding over the coming three years to study innovative approaches to suicide prevention, according to KUNC radio. One goal is to develop a network of researchers to study military suicides, compiling a database to explore how prevention programs can help.

Obvious differences for soldiers of this generation are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as multiple deployments of troops, as I reported in a series for Salon last year with national correspondent Mark Benjamin. In our investigation of suicides, homicides, and other deaths at Fort Carson, we exposed a pattern of preventable deaths, meaning a suicide or murder might have been avoided if the Army had better handled the predictable, well-known symptoms of two maladies rampant among combat veterans: combat-related stress and brain injuries.

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