There's a troubling piece in today's NYT about the rising suicide rate among American soldiers. Thus far, at least 128 soldiers are known to have killed themselves in 2008--the highest number in nearly three decades--with more deaths still under investigation. For the first times since Vietnam, the Army's suicide rate rose above that of the civilian population.
Yes, war is hell. But as the Times notes, the military could be doing a better job in this area:
Despite some progress, problems remain widespread, the advocates say. There are still far too few providers of mental health and substance abuse services, the Army is often reluctant to send soldiers to civilian therapists off bases, and mental health screening remains perfunctory, they say. At the same time, a warrior culture that discourages treatment persists.
I'm not sure there's much to be done about the "warrior culture" among the troops in general, but the top brass needs to be pressed to ensure that its squeamishness about such treatment isn't contributing to the other factors. After the spate of stories in recent years about the problems of alcoholism, PTS, and domestic violence plaguing military families, it's shameful that we still can't manage to provide proper screening or adequate care for soldiers.
Or, if the powers-that-be prefer to look at things from a purely self-serving perspective: with the strain the entire military has been under, we cannot afford to lose scores of dedicated warriors to self-inflicted wounds.