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Thomas Howard Suitt, III1 Boston University

Suicide rates among the United States public have been increasing for the past
twenty years, but among active military personnel and veterans of the post-9/11 wars, the
suicide rate is even higher, outpacing average Americans. The “post-9/11 wars” refers to
ongoing U.S.-led military operations around the world that grew out of President George W.
Bush’s “Global War on Terror” and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. This paper
estimates 30,177 active duty personnel and veterans of the post 9/11 wars have died
by suicide, significantly more than the 7,057 service members killed in post-9/11
war operations. These high suicide rates are caused by multiple factors, some inherent to
fighting in a war and others unique to America’s “war on terror” framework. Partially, they
are due to risks common to fighting any war: high exposure to trauma, stress, military
culture and training, continued access to guns, and the difficulty of reintegrating into
civilian life. In the post-9/11 era, the rise of improvised explosive devices (IED), the
attendant rise in traumatic brain injuries (TBI), the war’s protracted length, advances in
medical treatment that keep service members in the military longer, and the American
public’s disinterest in the post-9/11 wars, have greatly contributed to increased suicide
rates. High suicide rates mark the failure of the U.S. government and U.S. society to manage
the mental health costs of our current conflicts. Continue reading here…

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