On September 27th, the entire stopped what it was doing for a Suicide Stand Down. Every Soldier in the Army – deployed or not – was required to attend training designed to draw attention to indicators of potential suicide. The training also highlighted programs that were available to ensure that Soldiers knew where to go in the event they found themselves thinking about making that fateful decision.
So, with an entire day dedicated to stemming the tide of suicides plaguing our Army at the end of September, the logical effect would be fewer suicides.
The Army released suicide data today for the month of October. During October, among active-duty soldiers, there were 20 potential suicides: five have been confirmed as suicides, and 15 remain under investigation. For September, the Army reported 15 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers: four have been confirmed as suicides, and 11 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 166 potential active-duty suicides: 105 have been confirmed as suicides, and 61 remain under investigation. Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 confirmed as suicides, and no cases under investigation.
So, not only did MORE Soldiers kill themselves in October versus September, in just ten months we eclipsed the number of suicides that occurred in 2011.
Why is this happening? After writing about the suicide stand down day, I began to receive stories from NCOs and Soldiers at other posts who had a much different experience than I did. In their training, leaders were more involved with their Blackberries and smart phones or reading books and didn’t seem to care much about what was going on around the room. I’m sure this turned off a bunch of troops. Imagine – a training event designed to inform our Soldiers that their leaders and peers care about them and these same leaders couldn’t give a rat’s ass to participate. Others told me that the entire thing was made out to be a joke. Leaders gave smartass responses to serious questions. They lampooned the videos and subject material.
Is it no wonder that we are on course to bust 200 suicides in one year?! I mean what do we need to do to get it through the thick skulls that populate the senior NCO and field grade officer ranks that this is a real problem that REQUIRES active participation?! It takes – yes, I’ll say it – an emotional love for the troops we are charged to protect. Genuine care. Remember that?! Remember when you had to actually care about your Soldiers, dear leaders?!
“Suicide is preventable, and its prevention is a shared responsibility among all members of the Army family,” said Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command. Rodriguez said that everyone is empowered to intervene and save lives, “effective intervention requires leadership involvement and support, an environment that promotes help-seeking for hidden wounds like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress and prior knowledge of available local and national resources. We all must take the time to do a self-inventory to assess the presence and impact of stressors in our lives. Of equal importance is the awareness of the needs of others around us. There are no bystanders in our Army family.”
There are placed you can go if you find yourself under one of these piss poor leaders that cares more about getting home in time for the football than spending some time pulling a Soldier aside he paid attention to and thinks may be having problems. I mean, I can’t express how disgusted I am. I was there. I had some of those leaders that made matters worse when it was obvious I was sinking. One cared more about turning in his eagle for a star. One cared more about making himself look good and the good ole boy network, of which I didn’t belong. And one was just an opportunistic back-stabbing hypocrite. You know who you are.
Now these are just a bunch a links if you don’t have anyone else to talk to. But, please get with someone local you trust before it gets to this point. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Send a text. But, don’t pick up a gun or a bottle of pills or a straight razor.
Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by visiting their website at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_24.pdf.
The Army’s comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.preventsuicide.army.mil.
Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/training_sub.asp?sub_cat=20 (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).
Information about Military OneSource is located at http://www.militaryonesource.com or by dialing the toll-free number 1-800-342-9647 for those residing in the continental United States. Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource website for dialing instructions for their specific location.
Information about the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at http://www.army.mil/csf/.
The Defense Center for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil.