WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — A new Pentagon report reveals suicide among U.S. troops increased 15% in 2020 from the previous year. The Secretary of Defense called the findings “troubling.”
“Obviously, we take this very, very seriously. Nobody wants to see the numbers that we reported out,” said Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby.
The report shows a majority of the deaths were young enlisted men.
“This is a paramount challenge for the department,” Kirby said. “We must redouble our efforts to provide all of our people with the care and the resources.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, fears the numbers will only increase in the wake of the quick withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“The acute stress and trauma of that deployment takes a toll, and we have to address it,” Gillibrand said.
Gillibrand sent a letter to the Defense Department Thursday, demanding details on how the military is addressing mental health, after three soldiers at Fort Drum Army Base in upstate New York died by suicide in the span of two days earlier this month.
Gillibrand says she’s introduced “The Brandon Act,” which would allow service members to anonymously seek mental health treatment.
“It would create a code word that individuals could use to trigger a mental health evaluation referral without notifying command,” she explained.
Gillibrand says she has also called a Senate hearing to investigate the increase in suicides and find ways Congress can work with the Pentagon to mitigate this “crisis.”