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Monthly Army suicides reach all-time high in July with 38 suspected

There were 38 suspected suicides among active-duty and reserve soldiers in July, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Army.

That figure outpaces the 24 active-duty and reserve suicides the Army reported for the month of June and is the highest monthly number of suicides since record-keeping began a few years ago.  

The Department of Defense did not attempt to explain the abrupt surge in suicides for the month of July in a statement announcing the figures.


"I do believe suicide is preventable," Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, vice chief of staff of the Army, said in the release. "To combat it effectively will require sophisticated solutions aimed at helping individuals to build resiliency and strengthen their life coping skills."  

Related: Survivors of military suicide victims come together to grieve

Bruce Shahbaz, a medical analyst on the Army’s Suicide Prevention Task Force, told Time that experts did notice the deaths of non-commissioned officers outnumbered those of junior enlisted members for the first time since 2001. NCOs are more likely to be older, married and at home between deployments, a period of time that can be turbulent and exacerbate stress, according to Shahbaz.

"Issues like minor depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances -- those things that are kind of related to post-traumatic stress -- begin to surface after a service member has been home for more than a year, and start to reintegrate with their family … I liken it to a pot that’s on simmer -- having that person stay back home and reintegrate with their family sometimes allows that pot to boil over," Shahbaz told Time.

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The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a non-profit organization that provides counseling resources to suicide survivors, estimates that each death personally impacts 10 people. TAPS said that each week, eight to 10 people grieving for a service member who died by suicide seek its services.

"We are deeply saddened by these numbers, and renew our commitment to support the families left behind who are grieving the death of soldiers by suicide," the organization said in a statement.

So far in 2012, the Army has confirmed 66 active-duty suicides and continues to investigate 50 more, for a total of 116 cases. There were 165 confirmed active-duty suicides in 2011.

Rebecca Ruiz is a reporter at NBC News. Follow her on Twitter here.

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