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North Island on the list of bases in Pentagon suicide study

North Island Naval Air Station is on a list of base being visited by a new commission investigating military suicides.

Suicides in the military rose 16% in 2020.

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Congress mandated the Pentagon take another look at the potential causes.

The group American Progress recently looked at the data on suicide from the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Both veterans and members of the military have a higher suicide rate than the national average.

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One area where the commission needs to concentrate is the rate of gun ownership among troops.

“Guns matter in this regard,” said Eugenio Weigend, the director for Gun Violence Prevention at American Progress. “You know numerous studies have shown that, when you analyze the different mechanisms by which people attempt to commit suicide guns, are the most lethal.”


The connection between between guns and suicide is well documented.

The Pentagon recently began a new program geared toward the safe storage of personal firearms.

Flight line at Naval Air Station North Island
A Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 73 sailor signals two MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters on the flight line at Naval Air Station North Island during a change of command ceremony for the squadron, Oct. 15, 2015.

Looking at the data already compiled by the Department of Defense, researchers at the Center for American Progress found troops and veterans who suffered from injuries had a higher rate of suicide.

“Previous physical challenge or a physical condition, meaning physical injuries,” Weigend said. “We did see an analysis that relates to veteran suicides and military suicides, but it doesn't relate to the suicides in the overall population.”

On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin signed a memo creating a new commission that will look at the elevated suicide rate among troops. The commission will visit nine U.S. bases by no later than August. The only navy base on the list is North Island, headquarters for US Naval Aviation.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a briefing that other bases may be added.

“This is just an initial list,” Kirby said. “Ultimately, the Secretary made these decisions. And he was advised about this from talking to the senior service leadership about some of the challenges that they're having.”

The commission is scheduled to have a report ready for Congress in February.