The mental health of soldiers is one of the biggest issues facing the military, and at the heart of the matter is suicide, which has historically been a problem in the Armed Forces. In an effort to better understand the issue, the University of Kentucky is launching a large study investigating the impact military suicides have on friends and family members, The Associated Press reports.

The research comes at a time when suicide among servicemembers is increasing. The Department of Defense says 154 active duty members committed suicide in the first half of 2012, an 18 percent increase compared to 2011. Doctors and families alike hope the results will not only shed light on the causes of suicide, but also spur further conversation on the topic.

"We talk about eliminating the stigma in the military and also in civilian communities," Mark Graham, whose son Kevin committed suicide in 2003, told the AP. "It's got to be treated just like any physical illness or wound. People should be helped and not judged."

The research project comes amid other efforts to bring focus to the mental health of soldiers. Most recently, the charity Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund has pledged to funnel around $100 million to building clinics aimed at treating traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, reports The Washington Post.