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IRAQ: More Marines commit suicide

January 13, 2009 | 12:07 pm

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UPDATE: Two weeks after the item below was written, the Marine Corps announced that its earlier report was incorrect and that the actual suicide rate for 2008 was 19 per 100,000, the highest since 1995. The erroneous rate of 16.8 for 2008 was based on an administrative error in the calculation, Marine officials said. The number of Marines who commited suicide in 2008 remains 41, as initially reported, up from 33 in 2007.

ORIGINAL ITEM:

More active-duty Marines committed suicide last year than any year since the beginning of the war in Iraq, although the rate of suicide remained virtually unchanged because the corps is increasing its size, according to a report issued Tuesday.

Forty-one Marines are listed as possible or confirmed suicides, which makes for a rate of 16.8 per 100,000 troops, the report said.

The Marine Corps has several suicide-prevention programs, starting in boot camp (above), to encourage Marines to watch their buddies for signs that they are considering suicide.

In 2007, 33 Marines committed suicide for a rate of 16.5 per 100,000. The Marine Corps is adding more troops and calling in reservists to fulfill duties in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as statewide and forward bases.

The 2008 rate remains below that of the Army (18.1 in 2007) and the civilian population with similar demographics (19.5). Preliminary review shows that 2008 suicides match those of 2007: Nearly all were enlisted Marines 24 years or younger, and about two-thirds had deployed overseas.

Although research continues, officials have no link between repeated deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan and suicide, officials said.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Recruits at San Diego boot camp listen to their drill instructor during a "guided discussion" about the warning signs that a buddy might be considering suicide. Credit: Sean Masterson / For The Times

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