Spike in suicides for Army National Guard, Reserve

Suicides among active duty soldiers dropped slightly in 2010 after five years of record increases, Army leaders said Wednesday.

But there were twice as many self-inflicted deaths last year than the year before among the Army National Guard and Reserve, the nation's "citizen soldiers."

The big increase in suicides for members of the Guard and Reserve involved soldiers who were not on active duty at the time.

The number of active duty suicides declined in all services except for the Air Force last year.

"The bottom line is, this is a significant issue," the Army's vice chief of staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, told reporters at the Pentagon. He said the Army remains committed to improving access to training, health care and other resources.

Chiarelli said the Army must continue to educate soldiers about the overuse and abuse of prescription drugs.

Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve, said reservists are spread out geographically, often living in one state and belonging to a unit in another state, and that presents a major challenge.

He said leaders are looking for more ways for commanders to keep in contact with the members of their Reserve units during the bulk of the month, when they are not gathering for their training exercises.

Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, acting director of the Army National Guard, said for his soldiers it is a "young white male problem," that does not appear to be linked to war deployments or lack of jobs. Instead, he said, about half the cases of Guard soldiers' suicides involved people who had some type of relationship problem with a spouse or partner.