The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Preventing Military Suicides: The Battle Wages On

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“This report is a leader’s story—a story about Soldiers. Read, study and act on this report. It represents over a year’s worth of work to research, plan and implement health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention. It requires your immediate attention.”

Those are the first words in a report issued by the U.S. Army to its leaders.

This is the same report that one Army General says will hopefully “inform and educate, spark discussion, hone compliance on existing policy and provide an azimuth for the way ahead.” General Peter W. Chiarelli, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, feels the Army has still not paid enough attention to the mental health issues of our soldiers and their devastating repercussions. Those very repercussions are ones we have seen far too often in the newspapers, on the news and from the mouths of friends and loved ones: substance abuse, violence and suicide:

According to the report, those numbers are part of an alarming trend, which began in 2004.

“In Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 we had 160 active duty suicide deaths, with 239 across the total Army (including Reserve Component),” Chiarelli says. “Additionally, there were 146 active duty deaths related to high risk behavior including 74 drug overdoses.”

[from npr] This is tragic! Perhaps even more worrying is the fact we had 1,713 known attempted suicides in the same period.

Not Enough Resources

Throughout this “other” battle, the battle to prevent soldier suicide and substance abuse, the same responses keeps coming back from military personal on the ground: we don’t have the resources:

According to NPR’s Rachel Martin, “Defense officials say commanders on the ground don’t have the training to make suicide prevention a priority — or to recognize the signs of a soldier on the brink.”

That very well may be the case — commanders on the ground don’t have the training or resources to make suicide prevention a priority. Here’s a thought: make it a priority! Perhaps it’s not the place for military commanders on the ground, entrenched in battle, to have to recognize the signs. Maybe the Army needs to add military professionals who can. Instead of stretching our ground forces even thinner, let’s add to them!

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Written by traumalines

August 5, 2010 at 6:22 pm

One Response

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  1. […] a comment » The post we wrote last Thursday was about how one Army general came out and said that the Army has still not paid enough attention […]


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