Friday, February 6, 2009

war against terror / depression

from the NY Times:

Army Data Show Rise in Number of Suicides

The number of soldiers who committed suicide in January could reach 24, a count that would be the highest monthly total since the Army began tabulating suicides in 1980.

The latest Army figures, released Thursday, show seven confirmed suicides last month, with another 17 deaths still being investigated. The Army has said the vast majority of suspicious deaths typically turn out to be suicide.

24 suicides in one month seems like a lot to me.


es_trick said...

Those numbers certainly are not good. The trend suggests that the stress /trauma level our armed forces are experiencing as a result of having to do multiple tours of duty in Iraq & Afghanistan, and/or extended tours of duty in the war zones is pushing many over the brink.

But the numbers are even worse after they return to civilian life.

Suicide Epidemic Among Veterans

es_trick said...

the rest of the url:


Anonymous said...

I consider 2 in one month a lot, especially if its the same person.

Anonymous said...

I knew a ballerina who was out of work and joined the Navy "because her mother told her to." Within a month she was suicidal, mouthed off to her commanding officer, and became LIMDU (LImited Duty). That meant she was sorting mail in the mailroom alongside shell-shocked veterans and other malcontents. This menial task lifted her out of her depression and today she lives in Point No Point, Washington, which is pretty cool in and of itself (the town's name, that is).

On the other hand, Coast Guard people I've known were so incredibly drunk all the time suicide was never really high up on the list of things to do.

Anonymous said...

24 per month may seem like a large number to you but the relevant question is what is the equivalent suicide rate in the general population among young people (mostly male, mostly in their late teens/early 20s). I don't know the answer to this but it seems pretty important and it's pretty inexcusable if the Times article didn't mention it. (the NYT has tried this kind of slight of hand before, claiming that violent crime amongst ex soldiers was running rampant, but when more responsible journalistic organs investigated they found that the numbers for ex soldiers were actually slightly lower than those among a similar demographic in the general population).

Also, the article doesn't say the number is 24 per month. It says 7 and another 17 that MIGHT be. This seems to be pretty shoddy journalism to me.

Anonymous said...

How's your journalistic organs today?

es_trick said...

Anonymous “Feb 7, 9:53 AM” might want to check his reading comprehension, before calling out the NYT for “shoddy journalism.”

The article clearly states
“. . . show seven confirmed suicides last month, with another 17 deaths still being investigated. The Army has said the vast majority of suspicious deaths typically turn out to be suicide.”

There is a big difference between the phrase “the vast majority” used in the NYT article, and Anon’s misrepresentation of it as “another 17 that MIGHT be.”

Per Wiki, there are 545,000 people serving in the US Army. With 128 confirmed suicides in 2008, that works out to a rate of 23.5 per hundred thousand. If the 24 confirmed and suspected suicides in January is extrapolated for the rest of 2009, that would result in a rate of 52.8 suicides per 100,000.

For comparison, piecing together information from various sources, the suicide rate in the US in 2005 was 11.0. If veterans are factored out, the rate is significantly lower, 8.9 per 100,000 population. The suicide rate for the age group 20 – 39 was 13.9 in 2005. For boys age 15 – 19, it was 12.7 in 2004.

According to this source

Forty-one Marines are listed as possible or confirmed suicides in 2008, or 16.8 per 100,000 troops, and nearly all were enlisted Marines under age 24

The suicide rate of the army in 2007 stood at 18.1 per 100,000 troops and that for civilians was 19.5 people per 100,000, according to the report.

The Army suicide figures for 2008 have not yet been released, but officials said late last year that they expected the number and rate to increase from 2007.

All indications point to the existence of a serious problem.

Anonymous said...

es, thank you for the information. I guess the bad attitude comes along with it at no extra charge.

Here's the main point: IF any of the information you quote is contained in the NYT article then I withdraw my charge of shoddy journalism. I suspect it wasn't. Assuming you aren't just making up this information out of whole cloth then it obviously didn't take long to uncover these statistics so it would be inexcusable for the article to not include them. Also it should be noted that the conclusions you draw are based on the assumption of 24 per month. Your conclusions would certainly be different if the actual number were 7 per month (or even 15 per month, essentially splitting the difference between 7 and 24). Also, at the very, very least the NYT is jumping the gun with this report. They could have at least waited until there was a determination in the other 17 cases.

I don't know quite what to say about the tone of your post. You seem to be taking this very personally. Maybe you should cut back on the coffee.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way it would be interesting to know whether the army suicide statistics quoted in the article include only the regular army (the 540,000 you cite) or if they also include the reserves and national guard troops, many of whom have been called up for active duty as a result of Iraq and Afghanistan. Because if these troops are included than the base number is more like 1,000,000 troops, not 540,000.

Again, the the times article covers all of this then I have no objection to it. I'm basing my statements on the blurb posted at the blog. But if it doesn't then what would you call it if not shoddy journalism?

Elizabeth Vicary said...

anon, you need to chill. es-trick sounds neutral in his post-- the "bad attitude" is in your head.

and what the fuck are you doing, criticizing an article you *haven't even read*? that's so stupid, i don't even have words.

Anonymous said...

Hold it. This may be a new first. Elizabeth Vicary doesn't have words.
That must have been REALLY stupid.

Anonymous said...

O.K., I've now read the article. Everything I predicted about it is true. Is it o.k. with you if I crticize it now? Do I have your permission?

ES began his (her?) post with some snark about my lack of reading comprehension. That was the motivation behind the "bad attitude" comment. Given how rude you (EV) were in your response I can understand why you don't regard this as having a bad attitude.

And why, why, WHY is everyone taking this so damn personally?

Just because you're depressed and unhappy with your life is no reason to take it out on me. All I did was write a perfectly legitimate response to the article you posted. Or are you so close-minded or overly sensitve that you can't bear being exposed to differeing opinions?

If you really are this sensitive I suggest you make people register before they can leave a comment at your blog. That way you can easily weed out anyone who dares disagree leaving you with only your admirers.

Anonymous said...

Click here for an interesting position.

Anonymous said...

So what type of odd search terms do people use to find your blog this month?

es_trick said...


I’ll try not to be snarky this time.
(BTW, I wasn’t taking anything personally, as I don’t work for the NYT, nor do I subscribe to it. I just got riled up when I saw an anonymous poster setting him/herself up in the position of a journalistic critic, while at the same time not reading carefully, or worse, deliberately distorting what was written.)

When the Army itself says that “the vast majority of suspicious deaths typically turn out to be suicide” I take that to mean way more than the 8 out of 17 you are willing to concede by “splitting the difference.” Sorry, (I can’t help myself) but your arithmetic leaves a lot to be desired.

The extrapolation I made was clearly written in the conditional, therefore, it cannot be properly construed as a “conclusion.” Of course, I do understand that January’s number is probably anomalous, and that it is likely a “statistical blip.” Nevertheless, 24 is a number that should be of great concern, not only to people in the Army, but also to the public at large. Therefore, the NYT is not premature in publishing this information. Also, even if the number of suicides in January turned out to be “only 7,” with all 17 of the suspected cases attributed to other causes (extremely unlikely) the rate would still be 15.5 per 100,000, which is still way higher than the national average.

As to your question whether the Army’s suicide rate is based on its regulars numbering 540,000, or if it should be calculated with the National Guard and Reserves included, I had the same question, until I read this article, which I cited above:
Since that article clearly shows separate sets of statistics for two different branches of the military, I surmised that the Army is probably just reporting on its regular forces, and leaving the National Guard and Army Reserves to keep track of their own. I could be wrong. But even if you count 1.1 million in the Army, the rate is still ridiculously high.

I would also remind you that in my first post on this subject I cited the following story
which makes it very clear that we really do have a major crisis on our hands. Having already done follow up research on the subject before you posted, is probably another reason I took issue with your denunciation of the article being discussed. Whenever I see numbers like 7 + (the vast majority of) 17, I always want to convert that into a “rate” so that I can compare it to “the norm.” I find it extremely rare for national media publications to present information in terms of ‘x per 100,000.’ Most journalists are not statisticians, and most readers probably aren’t interested in that anyway. In my own experience, I’ve met very few people who think in those terms. Most are content to be shocked by a number such as 24. So, again, I felt your criticism unjustified.

Anonymous said...

For numerous reasons I'm no Joe Lieberman fan, but it seems enough people out there care(d) sufficiently to induce congressional action.

My guess is more than a few people consider the 7 or 24 or whatever that is per 100,000 to be alarming.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

this is ridiculous.

es-trick, you weren't snarky in any post -- you should not humor this idiot. he randomly attacks you and when you respond politely, he wonders why people take things personally and get so upset. he's too ashamed to sign his own name but he's amazingly *not ashamed* to admit HE DIDN'T EVEN READ THE ARTICLE. Why is this guy even worth talking to?

es_trick said...

Here's the latest