Discuss as:

Army suicides rise

From NBC's Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube
Despite the fact that the Pentagon just announced last Friday that 133 active duty soldiers have committed suicide so far in 2009, today the Army admitted that there have actually been 211 possible soldier suicides so far this year.

Why the discrepancy?  Last week's announcement did not factor in soldiers who were not on active duty at the time of their death -- that is, National Guard and Reserve soldiers. 

As of November 16, 140 active duty U.S. soldiers are either confirmed or suspected to have committed suicide so far this year ... AND another 71 Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers who were NOT deployed at the time of death are also possible or confirmed suicide victims.

Of course, with so many Guard and Reserve soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, a soldier could be back from the war zone for only a matter of weeks before being inactivated -- but last week's announcement did not factor them in.

The Army had 143 total suicides among active duty soldiers in 2008.  Army Vice Chief of Staff General Pete Chiarelli conceded today that the Army is "almost certainly going to end the year higher" for total suicides, adding that "every single loss is devastating."

Chiarelli also acknowledged that the Army continues to have a shortage of mental health professionals, and that he is especially concerned about the dramatic shortage of substance abuse counselors.

General Chiarelli said that despite hiring almost 900 mental health professionals over the past two years, the Army still needs about 800 more.  He also conceded that as substance abuse among soldiers has risen recently, the Army needs between 270 and 300 substance abuse counselors.  The abuse, Chiarelli added, has a direct link to mental health problems in soldiers.