WASHINGTON - The number of US army soldiers committing suicides has sharply increased this year to score a number that far exceeds US combat deaths for the same period.
"We are deeply concerned about suicide in the military," Cynthia Smith, Pentagon spokeswoman, told the BBC on Friday, June 8, adding it was "one of the most urgent problems" they faced.
The Data released by the Pentagon showed that as of 3 June, the army's 2012 active-duty suicides reached 154, compared with 130 in the same period last year.
The number far exceeds US combat deaths for the same period.
While the reasons for the increase are not entirely understood, the army's own data suggest soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk.
Yet, a portion of those taking their own life have never deployed, the figures show.
The suicide rate increase comes despite years of effort by the US military to encourage troops to seek help for mental health problems.
Those efforts include setting up confidential telephone hotlines and placing more mental health specialists near the battlefield.
But reports suggest that some in the military continue to believe that going for help is seen as a sign of weakness.
Counseling soldiers to seek help, Major General Dana Pittard, a commander in the 1st Armored Division, retracted an Army blog post made in January in which he told soldiers considering suicide to "act like an adult".
His remarks drew public rebuke from top Army officials, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.
Gen Dempsey said he disagreed with Gen Pittard "in the strongest possible terms", the Associated Press reported.
The Pentagon spokeswoman told the BBC that "suicide prevention is first and foremost a leadership responsibility".
"Seeking help is a sign of strength," she added.
Suicide among troops had leveled off during 2010 and 2011, but 2012 has seen the fastest pace since the US war in Afghanistan began in 2001.
A 2008 study by The New York Times showed that dozens of US war veterans, whose battle experiences on the streets of Baghdad and Kabul left them with psychic wounds, had been convicted of first-degree homicide back home.
At least 121 veterans have been convicted of or charged with murder in the US based on police, court and military records.
About a third of the victims were spouses, girlfriends, children or other relatives, were fellow service members.