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Last Updated: Friday, 26 March, 2004, 01:01 GMT
US army acts on soldier suicides
By Nick Childs
BBC Pentagon correspondent

A US soldier guards his base on 2 March 2004
Tough living and combat conditions in Iraq have taken a toll on morale
The US army is planning to improve its mental health care practices because of concern about the number of suicides among US soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait.

A report by an army medical health team which visited that region also showed low morale among troops and units.

At least 23 US soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait committed suicide last year.

As a proportion of the number of troops deployed, that is more than a third higher than the rate for the US army as a whole in 2003.

The army says it cannot find any clear reason for this but there is concern about whether more can be done to bring the rate down.

At the same time, the US military says the rate of suicides among soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait is still lower than the equivalent civilian population of young males.

Low morale

Fifty-two percent of soldiers reported low or very low morale. Seventy-two percent reported low or very low unit morale.

The team suggested this was in part the result of the particularly difficult living and combat conditions at the time of its survey - from late August to early October last year.

But it did also find inadequate training to deal with medical health problems, and in some cases that there had been shortages of medication such as anti-depressants.

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