- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2014

More active duty service members have committed suicide in the first half of 2014 than over the same time period last year, according to a Defense Department report released Thursday.

From January to June of this year, 144 active duty service members killed themselves, the report found. Over the same time period in 2013, 128 active duty troops had committed suicide.

In total, 224 service members committed suicide from January until June of this year, including 38 reservists and 44 National Guard members.

In the first half of 2013, 238 service members killed themselves, showing that the overall number of suicides is decreasing as the number among active duty troops rises.

The Senate is expected the pass an annual defense bill by the end of the week that includes a provision to mandate an annual mental health check for all troops, including reservists and National Guard members, who often don’t have the same mental health resources available to active duty service members when they return home from war.

“It’s incredibly concerning how many service members we are losing to suicide,” said Sen. Joe Donnelly, Indiana Democrat, who introduced this provision of the defense bill. “Any service member lost is one too many.”

The Senate also may pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act before leaving Washington, which would require an outside, annual evaluation of which mental health services troops find most beneficial and provide some student loan repayment incentives to recruit and retain mental health specialists. The bill already passed the House unanimously earlier this week.

• Jacqueline Klimas can be reached at jklimas@washingtontimes.com.

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