. The amount of military personnel taking their own lives decreased in 2022 due to the Pentagon’s implementation of new initiatives for prevention.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of suicides among U.S. military members and their families dipped slightly in 2022, compared with the previous year, as the Defense Department tries to build prevention and treatment programs to address what has been a steadily growing problem over the past decade, The Associated Press has learned.

Although the overall number of deaths decreased, there was a slight increase in suicides among active-duty troops, particularly in the Marine Corps and Air Force. This increase is attributed to the fact that the active-duty force has decreased in size, resulting in a higher rate of suicides per 100,000 service members, according to officials from the United States.

According to officials, there has been a slight decrease in the suicide rate for both the National Guard and the Reserve. This trend is consistent across all branches of the military, with notable declines in the Air Force, Marines, and Navy from 2020 to 2021, as well as a similar decrease in the Army during the first half of 2022.

Officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the findings before the report’s public release. They said that due to the decreasing size of the active-duty force, they believe the rate of suicides, rather than the number, is a more accurate measure. More broadly, they said the changes in the suicide rate were not statistically significant and they are not enough to determine yet if prevention and treatment programs are working.

Defense officials have stated that while there has been a slight stabilization in the numbers for 2022, the overall trend continues to show a rise in deaths. This offers some cautious optimism.

The trend of historical similarities in suicide victims and methods persists. The majority of suicides, at 93%, are still accounted for by young male troops. Additionally, 70% of the time, a firearm is used. However, the department has not yet taken significant steps towards implementing gun safety measures.

Earlier this year, a separate committee advised the department to enforce a set of precautions for gun safety in order to decrease suicides among military personnel. These measures include requiring waiting periods for service members to purchase firearms and ammunition while on military grounds.

The committee recommended that the department increase the minimum age for purchasing guns and ammunition to 25 for service members. They also suggested that anyone residing in military housing must register all personally owned firearms. Additionally, the panel proposed limitations on the possession and storage of privately owned firearms in military barracks and dormitories.

However, last month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin launched a fresh initiative to combat suicide within the military. Surprisingly, the department opted not to adopt the recommended firearm modifications proposed by the panel. Instead, the Pentagon announced plans to offer incentives for secure firearm storage, increase storage options, and promote public education on proper gun storage – actions that have been previously discussed by officials.

According to officials from the Defense Department, there are various legal obstacles to implementing certain measures for gun safety. They have been addressing this issue for several years and are confident that a more targeted and contemporary educational campaign aimed at the younger military population could be beneficial.

Furthermore, it was stated that conducting an anonymous survey to gather more insight from the force and determine effective measures is limited. The department has not dismissed the possibility of implementing further actions in the future.

Despite not agreeing to all of the recommendations made by the panel, Austin did commit to implementing several others. These include updating suicide prevention training, offering more counseling services, promoting a more positive attitude towards seeking mental health help, and hiring more staff and healthcare professionals.

The Department of Defense has been struggling with a lack of mental health professionals and efforts to decrease the negative perception of seeking assistance. Many military bases have implemented various initiatives, including mandatory counseling and activities focused on stress relief and leisure.

The recent study discovered that family tension, such as conflicts in relationships and mental health problems, are prevalent contributors.

The rate of suicide among family members varies, with over half of the deceased spouses being female. Despite the lower number of male spouses in the military (only 14%), they make up 48% of spousal suicides.

Based on the most recent statistics, there were 492 reported cases of suicide among active duty, Guard, and Reserve members, which is a decrease from the previous year’s total of 524. Additionally, there were 168 recorded suicides among family members in 2021, down from 202 in 2020. It should be noted that the data for family deaths is collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is one year behind the data for service members.

In 2022, there were a total of 331 suicides among active duty members, which is slightly higher than the 328 suicides reported in 2021. Specifically, the Army saw a decrease in suicides from 175 in 2021 to 135 in 2022. However, the Marine Corps had the largest increase with 43 suicides in 2021 and 61 in 2022. The Air Force also experienced an increase, from 51 to 64 suicides, while the Navy went from 59 to 71. The Space Force reported no suicides.

The Army National Guard experienced a significant reduction, going from 105 to 82 members. On the other hand, the Air Guard maintained its current number of 15 members. The Reserves also saw a decline, dropping from 76 to 64 members, except for the Air Force Reserves which saw a rise in numbers.