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Belarus defense ministry: 'US Army has 271-times more suicides.' Is it true?
On 11 October, the website of Belarus' Defense Ministry published an article titled "Why do youngsters from 'Belarusian Popular Front's Youth' not want to become true men?" In the article, the author - Col Uladzimir Makarau who is in charge of outreach and communication at the defense agency - compared among other things the number of suicides in the US Army and Belarusian Armed Forces. No doubt, the Belarus Army is winning the comparison. He writes:
"The number of suicides in the professional US armed forces is 271 times more than in the Belarusian army or nearly 4 suicides every day. It means that the professional US army has five times more suicides per 10 000 soldiers that the Belarus army. This is official statistics."
The 'official statistics' he is referring to means his another article published on the Defense Ministry's website in late September. Euroradio asked Col. Makarau about the source of the statistics he used. The source, it turns out, is this... article "The Suicidal Army" on the website of the Russian newspaper Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye (Independent military review)!
We cannot take the statistics from a Russian newspaper for granted and have checked the facts from Col. Makarau's publication in open sources.
Every quarter, the US Army publishes the suicide statistics. The data from 2017 can be checked here. According to the official US Army stats, 640 suicides were committed last year. The number includes 285 suicides in the Active Component, 224 in the Reserve Component and 131 in the National Guard.
Thus, 640/365 = 1.75. There are 1.75 suicides per day in the US Army - not 4 as the Belarus Defense Ministry claims. This is official statistics.
The Belarus Army has 46482 personnel, according to the data of Defense Ministry as of February 2018. There were 5 suicides, including 3 committed by conscript soldiers) in 2017. This translates into 0.013 suicides per day.
To find out how many more suicides are committed in the US Army than in the Belarus army, we divide 640 at 5. The result is 128 times - not 271 as Col Makarau claims.
Now let's take a look at the size of the army. The US army is 50-times bigger than the Belarusian army. The US armed forces have nearly 2.5 million personnel, including 1281900 in the Active Component, 801200 in the Reserve Component (source: here) and 449000 in the National Guard (source: here).
Let's compare the number of suicides per 10 000 personnel: 2,53 in the US army vs 1 in the Belarus army. It means that the US army has 2.53 times more suicides per 10 000 personnel - not 5 times more as Col. Makarau exaggerates in his article.
Let's also take into account:
Unlike the Belarus army, the US army constantly takes part in combat. Theoretically, being in combat US soldiers experience a much more serious stress than when serving in a time of peace.
The Reserve Component and the National Guard account for 55.5% of all suicides in the US army. The Reserve and National Guard personnel are not permanently stationed at a military base. They take part in the so called Battle Assembly or monthly training. The Army Reserve and National Guard spend the remaining free time at home. It means that the reasons to commit suicide may not always be associated with the military service.