Suicides have skyrocketed among America's troops, averaging nearly one a day this year, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
There have been 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year, according to Pentagon statistics obtained by The Associated Press.
Suicides had leveled off in 2010 and 2011, so this year's upswing has caught some officials by surprise, The Associated Press reported.
Studies point to combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, misuse of prescription medications and personal financial problems as contributors. Army data suggest soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk of committing suicide, although a substantial proportion of Army suicides are committed by soldiers who never deployed, according to the report.
The 2012 active-duty suicide total of 154 through June 3 compares to 130 in the same period last year, an 18 percent increase, according to the report.
Jackie Garrick, head of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office at the Pentagon, said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press that the suicide numbers are troubling.
"We are very concerned at this point that we are seeing a high number of suicides at a point in time where we were expecting to see a lower number of suicides," she told The Associated Press. "What makes one person become suicidal and another not is truly an unknown.”
Dr. Stephen N. Xenakis, a retired Army brigadier general and a practicing psychiatrist, told The Associated Press that the suicides reflect high tension as the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan.
"It's a sign in general of the stress the Army has been under over the 10 years of war," he said in the interview. "We've seen before that these signs show up even more dramatically when the fighting seems to go down and the Army is returning to garrison."
According to the report, the Army has seen 80 suicides through June 3, with the Air Force next behind at 32.