Posted at: 01/14/2013 10:44 PM
Updated at: 01/14/2013 10:48 PM
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 News) -- Military suicides are on the rise, and it’s a trend seen in Minnesota as well. In fact, the state has seen a surge in military suicides in the last few years, including one just over two weeks ago.
According to a new report published by the Associated Press, military suicides reached a record high in 2012, even exceeding the number of combat deaths in Afghanistan with 349 service members taking their own lives.
“These are casualties of war,” said Rep. Tim Walz (D). “These are casualties of military service and we must defend this nation, and we must give them the tools necessary to do it."
Chief among those tools is a quality mental health care system for veterans and current service members. A system Congressman Walz says needs to be reassessed.
“V.A. health care is very, very good but we're very understaffed on the mental health side of this,” Rep. Walz said. “We're not graduating enough to probably fill that, so I think we need to be creative in how we do our outreach."
Experts agree that suicide is not purely a mental health issue and prevention efforts should focus on addressing all aspects of a soldier's life.
“A lot of times financial problems can lead to thoughts of suicide, this type of thing,” said Jon Rhiger, veterans services officer for Freeborn County. “So if we had some good paying jobs come to the area as well that would be a benefit."
But regardless of what preventative measures are ultimately put in place, officials say the goal is quite clear.
“Whether we can prevent every single one isn't really the point,” Rep. Walz said. “The point is trying to do our best to reduce them the best we can."
Already in 2013 an army psychologist with Rochester ties took his own life.
Cpt. Peter Linnerooth grew up in Mankato and attended high school in Rochester. While stationed in Iraq he helped soldiers deal with posttraumatic stress disorder, but unfortunately he was not able to overcome his own battle with PTSD and took his own life on January 2nd. On Monday a funeral was held at Fort Snelling in the Twin Cities in his honor.