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Combat stress no longer #1 cause of military suicides

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

The suicide rate among military service members has often been associated with post-traumatic-stress-disorder, but a new Department of Defense study shows the majority of suicides were committed by soldiers who never went to war. 

It's an issue plaguing the members of our military and it doesn't appear to be slowing down with decreased fighting. 

The people charged with the defense of our nation are committing suicide at an alarming rate and new information just released in a Department of Defense study is challenging the traditionally accepted theory that combat-related stress is the cause.  The explanation may be more complicated.

"There's probably a disproportionate amount of members of the military who commit suicide who themselves have had either previous trauma prior to entering the military, or maybe even mental illness, or substance abuse," said Mark Strunk of the Pastoral Institute.

The Pastoral Institute is a non-profit resource in Columbus designed to meet the spiritual needs of patients seeking guidance. Three out of ten clients seen by their counselors are active military.

The experts are not surprised by the findings of the study that show 86% of military suicides between 2008 and 2011 were committed by soldiers who were never deployed or never saw combat.

"The guilt is problematic.  So for them, even though they weren't deployed, it's 'I've been here safe and sound while my colleagues have been in harm's way,' and they feel guilty for that. With a reservist, sometimes they don't have the same support structure that the regular military guys do.  They have their regular career, they're called up for a year, the do their stuff and come back, but now they're not there in that unit," said Strunk.

In an explanation proposed by the Los Angeles Times, entering the military during war-time may appeal to more people who have decreased regard for their own life.  It may also appeal to people who have pre-existing problems in their lives that they are trying to escape.

"For some, sadly enough, it's three squares, it's a roof over their head, clothes to wear, it's a future, where for some, it looks pretty bleak elsewhere. So the military seems to be a good option for them," said Strunk. 

This is just the latest in a series of new developments regarding suicide statistics. Last year we learned the number of military suicide deaths outnumbered combat deaths at the hands of the enemy. It's a trend the experts are monitoring closely.

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