With six weeks left in the year, the Army and Navy are already reporting record numbers of suicides, with the Air Force and Marine Corps close to doing the same, making 2012 the worst year for military suicides since careful tracking began in 2001.
The deaths are occurring at a rate faster than one per day. On Nov. 11, confirmed or suspected suicides among active-duty forces across the military reached 323, surpassing the record of 310 suicides set in 2009. Of that total, the Army accounted for 168, surpassing its high last year of 165, and 53 sailors took their own lives, one more than last year.
The Air Force and Marine Corps are only a few deaths from record numbers. Fifty-six airmen had committed suicide as of Nov. 11, short of the 60 in 2010. There have been 46 suicides among Marines, whose worst year was 2009 with 52.
Military-suicide researcher David Rudd sees a direct link with the effects of combat and frequent deployments.
"The reason you're going to see record numbers is because these wars are drawing down and these young men and women are returning home," Rudd said. "When they return home, that's where the conflicts surface."
Still, at least a third of soldiers who killed themselves this year never went to war, and some leaders draw a correlation with societal stress, perhaps related to the poor economy.