Mental-health experts, the U.S. military, the groups that aid returning service members, their families are trying to provide a sense of support for veterans and active-duty troops in an attempt to prevent the growing number of suicides.
American troops have been taking their own lives in alarmingly increasing numbers over this past decade at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Veterans Affairs Department is looking to black women, the group in the U.S. population with the lowest suicide rate, to learn the factors behind that statistic and, hopefully, then determine how best to use that knowledge to help service members.
We're taking a look at a cross section of the U.S. troops whose suicides have shaken the military and the nation as well as at some of the support offered to veterans and their families, all strained by repeated tours during a decade at war.
Marine Maj. John Ruocco, pictured here with his family, was all smiles the day he returned from Iraq. In the three months afterward, though, he felt numb and depressed, lost weight, and suffered from insomnia and nightmares. He grew distracted and withdrawn. The morning after he promised his wife, Kim, he'd get help, the 40-year-old pilot based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., hanged himself in 2005.
Kim Ruocco now directs suicide-prevention programs for the military-support organization Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.(AP Photo/Ruocco Family)
Army Pvt. Danny Chen, 19, died in 2011 in Afghanistan of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Eight fellow servicemen were later charged in connection with his death. They allegedly harassed and humiliated Chen, who was from New York. Charges were later dropped against four of the men. The Army has recommended seven of those charged be court-martialed. Read more about the case.(AP Photo/U.S. Army)
Army Reserve Spc. Justin Byers died after he was hit by a pickup when he walked out of a ditch about 20 miles from his home in Schieswig, Iowa, in 2005. His death was ruled a suicide. His brother, Casey, was killed in Iraq shortly before Byers was struck.(AP Photo/Iowa National Guard)
Army Spc. Albert Godding, right, received a Meritorious Service Medal for preventing the suicide of Cpl. Joe Sanders in 2008. The Army created a suicide-prevention task force in March 2009 and launched mandatory training that teaches soldiers to watch each other for indications of suicidal behavior.(AP Photo/U.S. Army/Zach Morgan)
Soldiers carry the coffin of Army Spc. Gil Mercado Roman in Isabela, Puerto Rico, in 2003. Mercado Roman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Iraq.((AP Photo/Tomas van Houtryve))
Mary Gallagher’s husband, Gunnery Sgt. James F. Gallagher, committed suicide at Camp Pendleton in May 2006.(AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
Chris Scheuerman comforts his former wife, Anne, while the couple reminisce about their son, Pfc. Jason Scheuerman. He fatally shot himself in 2005, after an unlicensed Army psychologist concluded Scheuerman was capable of faking mental illness to get out of combat duty.(AP Photo/Jonathan Fredin)
This collage was created during an art-therapy session at the annual TAPS National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar & Good Grief Camp in 2010 in Washington.(Courtesy of TAPS)
The TAPS National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar & Good Grief Camp in 2010 in Washington drew people grieving a loved one who commited suicide while serving. Participants attended workshops, went to support groups, talked with experts in suicide grief, and connected with others who had experienced a similar loss. Children attended activities designed to support their needs in coping with a death. The next such event will be held in October.(Courtesy of TAPS)