The Marines have had the highest suicide rate among the branches since 2011, according to the Department of Defense.

Gen. Eric Smith, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said the service struggles to find the root cause of the problem, though he pointed to the lack of mental health care providers nationwide.

“The real challenge I think we have is there's a lack of about 800,000 medical professionals in America right now, give or take, 600,000 nurses, 200,000 doctors,” Smith said. “That includes mental health professionals. They're not there to obtain into the military. So we have to use our corpsman, our commanders and our chaplains.”

The Navy and Marines are also short 400 chaplains throughout the services, Smith said Friday at the Military Reporters and Editors Conference in Washington, D.C. (He has since been hospitalized.)

He suggested the Marines consider creating a special career path for chaplains that would allow more of them to transfer into the job classification. 

“We would pay them to go to school. They keep their rank and then they come back. Can we do that for chaplains?” Smith said. 

The recent DOD report focused on the suicide rate per 100,000 troops. The Marines had 61 total deaths, or 34.9 deaths per 100,000 Marines.

The number of suicides spiked in 2020. After dipping in 2021, the rate rose again in 2022. In the last fiscal year, 492 active duty troops died by suicide. The number is actually lower than the 524 troops who died in 2021, but the actual suicide rate went up by 3%.

The overall suicide rate has been rising among active-duty military since 2011, though the deaths have dropped slightly over the same time period for guard and reserve troops.

Most deaths in 2022 were males and 65% of troops killed themselves by using a firearm. Most deaths happen at home and 87% of all suicides happen within the continental United States, according to the report.