Preserving the Army's most valuable resource--its people
September 28, 2011
FALL CHURCH, Va. (Sept. 28, 2011)--September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. The Army however, promotes Suicide Prevention Awareness--not only in September--but throughout the year to enhance resiliency in our Soldiers, Families and Army Civilians and providing education and tools necessary to recognize and reduce the high risk behaviors related to suicides and accidental death.
"Army Medicine has an integral role in keeping the Army strong," said Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the Army Surgeon General and US Army Medical Commander. "We do this by meeting the health needs of our Warriors and their Families from battlefield injuries and illness to preventive health."
The Army has instituted a multi-level, holistic approach to health promotion, risk reduction, and suicide prevention to combat the many challenges our Soldiers, Families and Army Civilians face. These challenges may include substance abuse, relationship problems, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and chronic pain.
"Updating and re-enforcing many of our policies and regulations related to pain management, polypharmacy, and urinalysis drug testing are just a few strategies we implemented to improve the coordination and management of our at-risk Soldiers and Families," Schoomaker said. " We've implemented integrative medicine modalities to augment the use of medication to enhance our holistic approach to healthcare.
"The persistent challenges we've faced in past years and to some degree today is to change the mindset of how the military culture views pain and the stigma some Soldiers and Family members have with seeking behavioral healthcare," he added.
The Army is beginning to see progress and an increase in the numbers of Soldiers who are seeking help for behavioral health issues.
"Soldiers are seeking behavioral health care in record numbers…indicating that our efforts to emphasize the importance of behavioral health are working. They are working because Soldiers recognize the importance of individual help-seeking behavior and commanders realize the importance of intervention," said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, in the 2010 Report on Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention.
The Army's Medical Research and Materiel Command currently manages thirteen suicide prevention research projects with a total value of $79 million. These projects range from the National Institute of Mental Health Army Study To Assess Risk and Resiliency in Servicemembers (Army STARRS) to a Walter Reed Army Institute of Research project on suicide ideation in combat environment. The Army continues to partner with behavioral health professionals in its efforts to constantly refine and improve programs. This research partnership will provide scientifically based information needed to identify potential suicide risk factors and shape prevention and intervention programs.
"Saving lives, promoting health and delivering leading edge health services to our Warriors and military Families to optimize outcomes is--and will remain--our main focus," Schoomaker said.