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The suicide rate among young male veterans continues to soar: ex-servicemen 24 and younger are now three times more likely than civilian males to take their lives, according to a federal study released Friday.

Former troops in that high-risk age group — who were also enrolled for care at veterans' hospitals — posted a suicide rate of 79.1 per 1,000 during 2011, the latest data available. In contrast, the annual suicide rate for all American males has recently averaged about 25 per 1,000, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports.

During 2009, the suicide rate for veterans 24 and younger was 46.1 per 1,000 — meaning the deadly pace increased by 79 percent during that two-year span.

“This is awful and alarming,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “While our nation’s focus on the wars — and the warriors — has waned, our veterans continue to confront invisible wounds. We must do all we can to support every man and woman struggling with mental health issues…We clearly have much more work to do.”

Overall, the suicide rate among all U.S. veterans remains staggeringly high and unchanged from a year ago: 22 per day, the VA reports.