Air Force veteran Tom Pergola of Akron raised awarness about veteran suicides in a 2014 event. (Cheryl Powell/Akron Beacon Journal)

Leaked Facebook data shows ‘record’ number of Air Force suicides

Air Force spokeswoman confirms data was accurate ‘at the time it was created’

UPDATED: 

An Air Force spokeswoman confirmed that photos of military suicide statistics leaked to social media last week were accurate “at the time they were created.”

But she added that the still-unofficial “numbers may fluctuate slightly as suspected suicides are confirmed.”

“The Department of the Air Force has been and continues to pursue immediate, mid-term, and long-range suicide prevention initiatives for the Total Force that focus on connections between individuals, units, and Air Force family; protections in environments, services, and policies; detection of risk in individuals and units; and equipping the Total Force and family members to mitigate risk and increase resilience,” Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower for the Air Force, said in a statement sent to the Dayton Daily News. “Suicide is a difficult national problem without easily identifiable solutions that has the full attention of leadership.”

ORIGINAL STORY:

Photos of military suicide statistics leaked to social media last week have been confirmed by military officials, a defense publication said. 

The photo on Facebook shows total “Force” suicides of 136 individuals for calender year 2019.

“Officials confirmed the number last week after the latest statistics appeared on social media,” a recent Military.com story says.

The photo of what appears to be a computer screen showing the data in question appeared Jan. 30 on the Air Force Forum Facebook page, a page for military news.

Military.com said the new numbers represent a 33 percent increase in suicides compared to the previous year.

RELATED: As suicide numbers rise, Air Force orders new ‘tactical pause’ 

“Suicide is a difficult national problem without easily identifiable solutions that has the full attention of leadership,” Military.com quoted Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower for the Air Force, as saying.

The photographed page shows that active-duty suicides through Dec. 31 reached 84, by far the majority of “total force suicides” of 136 for the same period. The computer screen is labeled in one corner as “For internal DOD use only.”

Airmen suicides is a problem the Air Force has eyed with concern for some time. In August, the Air Force ordered all wings to stand down for one day in coming weeks to focus on suicide prevention and emotional well being.

In a message sent to commanders last summer, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein gave wings until Sept. 15 to hold what he called a “resilience tactical pause.”

Col. Thomas Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base installation commander, said in his own follow-up e-mail at the time that the local base and its units were taking the issue seriously.

“We received the Air Force-wide directive for the ‘resiliency tactical pause,’ and we share our leaders’ concerns about the well-being of all of our airmen, officers and civilians,” Sherman said. “Suicide is the leading cause of death in the Air Force and we must collectively own this problem as we work to take care for those who may be suffering.”

An Air Force spokeswoman referred questions about the data to a colleague Thursday. A message was sent to that colleague. 

If you or someone you know is in crisis:

Call 911 if necessary.

Contact the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Contact the Crisis Text Line by texting 4hope to 741741.

Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.

X