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Army Suicide Prevention Program (ASPP)

What is it?
The ASPP is an Army-wide commitment to provide resources for suicide awareness, intervention skills, prevention, and follow-up in an effort to reduce the occurrence of suicidal behavior across the Army. The ASPP develops initiatives to tailor and target policies, programs, and training in order to mitigate risk and behavior associated with suicide. A function of the ASPP is to track demographic data on suicidal behaviors to assist Army leaders in the identification of trends.

What has the Army done?
The ASPP began in 1984, and since 2001, the Army has increased emphasis on preventive and intervention measures, directing commanders to take ownership of the program, and synchronize and integrate resources at installation level to mitigate risk. Suicide prevention training is provided in the pre-command, leadership, and noncommissioned officer courses, and to all deployed Soldiers during the redeployment phase of the Deployment Cycle Support Process.

In 2002, the Army provided Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshops and interactive CDs to installation chaplains to augment training at unit level. From 2003 to 2006, the Office of the Surgeon General (OTSG) deployed Mental Health Advisory Teams (MHATs) to Kuwait and Iraq to assess the mental health status of deployed Operation Iraqi Freedom Soldiers. The OTSG has continued to assess the ASPP and behavioral health care in Iraq through follow-on MHAT visits. As a result of the MHAT visits, the OTSG established an additional behavioral health consultant position to synchronize and coordinate behavioral health resources needed across the area of operations. In 2006, the Army G-1 created a working group to better integrate and synchronize efforts from various agencies, identify trends, and provide recommendations to senior Army leaders.

Since 2007, the Army has increased the number of Suicide Prevention Coordinators in the Active Component, the Army National Guard, and the U.S. Army Reserve; distributed 5,000 ASIST kits; and formed the Multi National Forces Iraq Task Force to review trends and allocate resources as needed. These initiatives have resulted in an increase of behavioral health personnel for units who have been in theater for more than six months. The Army also requires a Health Promotion Council to aid the commander in suicide prevention at every installation.

On February 11, 2008, the Army G-1 met with the Army Surgeon General, the Chief of Chaplains, and the Director, Human Resources Policy, G-1 to discuss a way ahead in developing a viable Army Suicide Prevention Action Plan. After reviewing the draft 2008 Army Suicide Prevention Action Plan, the panel engaged in discussions targeted at a way ahead. The panel discussed the need for a multidisciplinary approach to any solution to ensure the Army provides the best tools for commanders in the field. Central to the discussion was a focus on an Army suicide prevention strategy that is designed to: reduce the stigma of seeking mental health care; improve access to behavioral health providers; raise the awareness of junior leaders while instilling intervention skills; provide actionable intelligence to field commanders that includes lessons learned and trends analysis; and increase life skills. The Army initiated a General Officer Steering Committee (GOSC) for suicide prevention that meets to assess policies, programs, and training efforts for suicide prevention.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The Army plans to increase suicide intervention and risk assessment skills through Ask, Care, Escort (ACE) skills training at military installations and in theater. The Army has committed to a 5-year, $50 Million study by the National Institute for Mental Health to investigate causes of, and how to mitigate, suicides. The Army is also distributing 6,500 ASIST kits for key leader training. In FY09, the Army will conduct four train-the-trainer events to refresh the ASIST trainers Army-wide and develop measures of effectiveness and compliance. An analysis cell is currently being established within the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine to provide information to mitigate the risk associated with suicidal behavior. In addition, the analysis cell will provide information to GOSC to further shape policies, programs and training to reduce suicide events in the Army. The 2008 Army Suicide Prevention Campaign theme was: “Shoulder to Shoulder: No Soldier Stands Alone.” On August 12, 2008, the ASPP GOSC changed the campaign strategy vision to: “A resilient and fit Army equipped with life skills to meet all challenges,” and revised the purpose to “Strengthen Army culture by implementing an effective and adaptive prevention campaign program focused on proven measures to influence behaviors and change social perceptions to diminish suicidal behavior in the Army.”

Why is this important to the Army?
The loss of any American Soldier's life is a great tragedy, regardless of cause. The Army is committed to providing resources for awareness, intervention, prevention, and follow-up necessary to help our Soldiers, their Families, and Army Civilians, overcome difficult times.

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