Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed deep concern about suicide among troops during a visit to U.S. forces stationed in Alaska where there has been an alarming spike in those deaths.

Austin cited stress on troops and the stigma of seeking treatment for mental health issues as contributing factors. Last week, Army experts and Defense officials cited the stress caused by life in the military, demands for troops to confront China’s rising influence and access to counseling.

“Mental health is health period,” Austin said. “And we have to approach it with the same energy that we apply to other – any other health issue, with compassion and professionalism and resources. And so if you’re hurting, there are resources available.”

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