WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Marine Corps is using interactive videos and other measures to reduce the number of suicides in its ranks, but it expects 2012 to be another "tough year" for the entire U.S. military, the service's top general said on Tuesday.
Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos said concerted efforts had helped reduce the number of suicides in the Marine Corps to 32 in 2011 from a record high of 52 in 2009, but the trend looked worse for this year.
"Even with the attention of the leadership, I think all the services are feeling it," Amos said after a speech at the National Press Club. "This year ... is going to be a tough year for all the services."
The Marine Corps recorded eight suspected suicides in July, up from six in June. That brought the number of suicides in the service to 32 for the first seven months of 2012, matching the total for all of last year.
The U.S. Army earlier this month reported that 26 active-duty soldiers were believed to have committed suicide in July, more than double the number reported for June and the most suicides ever recorded in a month since the U.S. Army began compiling detailed statistics on such deaths.
As of June, the Pentagon had recorded 154 suicides across all the military services, a rate of about one suicide per day, according to a Defense Department spokeswoman. No updated statistics were available.
Testifying before the House of Representatives Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month described suicide as "one of the most frustrating problems" he had come across in his role.
Brigadier General Paul Kennedy, head of Marine Corps public affairs, said closer ties between military leaders and their troops -- and frank discussions about mental health issues -- could prove effective in combating the high number of suicides.
Pentagon leaders have made suicide prevention a top priority in recent years, adding more behavioral healthcare providers to front-line units and primary care settings, and trying to reduce the stigma associated with mental health treatment.
(Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
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