Seven years after the rate of suicides by soldiers more than doubled, the Army has failed to reduce the tragic pace of self-destruction, and experts worry the problem is a “new normal.”

“It’s very clear that nothing that the Army has done has resulted in the suicide rates coming down,” said Carl Castro, a psychologist who retired from the Army in 2013, when he was a colonel overseeing behavioral health research programs.

The sharp rise in the Army’s suicide rate from 2004 through 2009 coincided with unusually heavy demands on the nation’s all-volunteer military, as hundreds of thousands of troops, most of them in the Army, deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The vast majority have since come home, but suicide rates remain stubbornly high.

The Army’s suicide rate for active-duty soldiers averaged nearly 11-per-100-000 from Sept. 11, 2001, until shortly after the Iraq invasion in 2004. It more than doubled over the next five years, and, with the exception of a spike in 2012, has remained largely constant at 24-to-25-per-100,000, roughly 20% to 25% higher than a civilian population of the same age and gender makeup as the military.

Since the Army is the largest service branch in the military, the Pentagon suicide statistics reflected a similar increase.

“Seven years of relative stability at these profoundly higher rates may well be the new normal,” said David Rudd, president of the University of Memphis, who served on a panel of scientists that reviewed military mental health programs and issued a critical report in 2014.

Read more at USA Today

Image courtesy of The Daily Beast