Marine Corps veterans have formed their own suicide-prevention network for reasons laid out in a very powerful article by Dave Philipps in the New York Times. The men Philipps writes about served in the Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment (the 2/7), in Afghanistan. Many had been deployed in Iraq, too.
No one knows whether the battalion’s suicide rate is abnormally high or a common trait of fighting units hit hard by combat, because no one monitors troops over time. In an era of Big Data, when algorithms can predict human patterns in startling detail, suicide data for veterans is incomplete and years old by the time it is available. The most recent data is from 2011.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Pentagon say they have introduced a new system, called the Suicide Data Repository, that is faster and more complete.