During November, among active-duty soldiers, there were 12 potential suicides: one has been confirmed as a suicide and 11 remain under investigation. For October, the Army reported 20 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers; since the release of that report, one case has been removed for a total of 19 cases: nine have been confirmed as suicides and 10 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 177 potential active-duty suicides: 113 have been confirmed as suicides and 64 remain under investigation. Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.
I’ve been hounding on leaders about these numbers for years and especially since my near fatal decision. While the number of suicides during a month dropped by 8, that is still 12 too many lives that were ended prematurely.
I can’t express how important it is for everyone in the military – from the Soldier contemplating the worthlessness of life to his subordinates, peers and leaders – to really take this issue seriously. If you see a Soldier, regardless of his or her rank, that just doesn’t seem to be himself…say something. The best case scenario is that they just lost a contact lens. Worst case, he could feel like the weight of the world is on his shoulders.
As leaders, we MUST be cognizant of our troops. During long weekends and holidays, we must be extra vigilant in reaching out to our troops. Call them. Text them. Visit their homes. Take them a homemade dessert. Show them you care. Invite a single Soldier or two to your house for Christmas meal if they can’t visit their own families. Emily and I try to invite troops to our home for Thanksgiving meals, but we were out of town this year and I’ve inquired about having some over for Christmas.
The point is that we need to engage. Hopefully, the nearly 50% drop in suicides in November is not just an anomaly. I truly hope we are starting to wake up and recognize the signs.
“As part of the Army’s team-based and holistic approach to suicide prevention and stigma reduction, Army chaplains remain committed to fostering a resilient and ready force by enhancing strength, reducing stigma and encouraging help-seeking behaviors,” said the Army’s Maj. Gen. Donald L. Rutherford, Chief of Chaplains. “Our soldiers, families and civilians are our most precious resource, and the chaplaincy embodies the best of our Army values when it proclaims hope, embraces community, and stands with those who feel they stand alone.”
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.