The number of active-duty service members committing suicide is increasing at a dramatic pace this year, according new statistics from the Pentagon.
Department of Defense statistics reveal that 146 military men and women took their own lives in the first 148 days of this year. That's a 17 percent increase over the same time period in 2011 and a 24 percent increase over 2010.
Reasons for the increase are not clear, but studies have suggested combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, prescription drug abuse and financial problems are contributing factors.
Army data also suggest soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk of committing suicide, although a substantial number of suicides are committed by soldiers who never deployed.
Jackie Garrick, head of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office at the Pentagon, said that the 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 said.
Experts are still struggling to understand suicidal behavior.
"What makes one person become suicidal and another not is truly an unknown," Garrick said.