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Suicide rate on rise in U.S. Air Force

From Barbara Starr
CNN Washington Bureau


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Air Force is reporting an increase in the suicide rate among its personnel this year but has been unable to identify a reason for the rise, a spokesman said.

None of the reported suicides involved enlistees who had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

There have been 26 suicides in the Air Force so far this year, which equates to an annual rate of about 13 per 100,000. There were 38 suicides in 2003, a rate of 10.2 per 100,000.

The suicide rate in the general population ranges between 11 and 12 per 100,000.

The Air Force is trying to determine if there is some cause or pattern to the suicides.

Indications so far are that the suicides closely follow patterns in civilian society in which young males often face problems with alcohol, finances and personal relationships.

The Air Force notes that young males under the age of 24 represent 37 percent of its population and also 54 percent of the suicides.

Like the other military services, the Air Force has a suicide prevention and awareness program that includes training for commanders.

At the same time, the Air Force reported a possible downward trend.

The last quarter of 2003 averaged 4.7 suicides per month, while the second quarter this year is averaging three incidents per month, the Air Force said.

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