Military suicides increase in Alaska

Dec. 1, 2004 at 7:34 PM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Alaska's Elmendorf Air Force Base has reported an increase in the number of suicides despite a decade-old program to prevent them.

The Anchorage Daily News said there have been three suicides so far this year, compared with one or none during previous years. Most at risk seem to be young men, new to Alaska, the report said.

"We are aggressively going after this, trying to do everything we can to make sure we are helping folks before the pressure builds," said Col. Michael Snodgrass, commander of Elmendorf's 3rd Wing.

Throughout the Air Force, 48 active-duty airmen had taken their own lives as of the end of November, or a rate of 14.1 per 100,000 people, the report said.

That compared with 9.2 per 100,000 for the seven years before 2004.

Air Force officials are mystified by the increase. Combat stress is not believed to be the main reason because the suicides have not occurred in a war zone.

The deaths have come at bases in the United States and overseas. The vast majority of the suicides are young, lower-ranked enlisted men, who have been in the Air Force several years.

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