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Air Force suicides rise to highest level in three decades

Suicide rates among active-duty Air Force members reached a 30-year high in 2019, according to unpublished data obtained by the Associated Press.

The Air Force reported 84 suicides among active-duty members last year, up from 60 the year before. In the previous five years the number of suicides fluctuated between 60 and 64. 

“Suicide is a difficult national problem without easily identifiable solutions that has the full attention of leadership,” Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, told AP.

The information provided to AP is preliminary data that is subject to change once the findings are published. Airforce Magazine published a story this month claiming 137 members of the Air Force died of suicide, though it’s unclear what the break down is of active duty members and reserve corps. 

In 2018, the Department of Defense reported a total of 541 confirmed or pending suicide deaths among active-duty service members throughout all branches of the military, resulting in a rate of 24.8 suicide deaths per 100,000 active duty members. 

In July, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein went public with concerns over suicide rates, which by that point in the summer had reached 79 for the year.

In a letter sent to commanders, Goldfein said suicide is “an adversary that is killing more of our Airmen than any enemy on the planet.” 

The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to request for comment from The Hill.

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