Suicide affects all of Army, Team Jackson
July 25, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Through June, there have been 89 potential active-duty Army suicides: 48 were confirmed as suicides and 41 remain under investigation. At our current rate, we have the potential to exceed last year's 165 confirmed suicides.
Across all the services the suicide rate has increased 18 percent so far this year. At a recent combined DoD and Veterans Affairs suicide prevention conference in June, officials noted that in 2012 we have seen the highest military suicide rate in more than a decade of prolonged conflict. These are more than alarming statistics.
These "numbers" are our fellow Soldiers. Suicide affects all of us. As such, suicide prevention is not just a top priority for our senior leaders, it is a priority for each and every one of us.
No unit or installation is immune, as Team Jackson recently lost one of our own to an apparent suicide. We cannot let suicide take one more Soldier.
Suicide prevention is clearly an all-hands mission -- all of the time. We need to make sure we react correctly when we spot a problem or a Soldier seeks help. This is where leadership needs to continue to step up.
In today's Army, junior commanders and leaders are expected to do more, know more and be more than their predecessors. We expect leaders to know their Soldiers well. They should be able to detect when Soldiers are acting out of character and exhibiting unusual behavior.
Equally as important, leaders must be willing to listen. They need to be approachable. Every Soldier in your unit needs to know that he or she can go to you with a problem. Leaders must break down long-standing stigmas associated with Soldiers seeking mental health counseling.
We must not tolerate any actions that belittle those individuals who are seeking help. Asking for help illustrates strength. The success of the Army depends on the whole team: officers, noncommissioned officers, Soldiers, Civilians and Families. No one should ever stand alone. If you know someone who needs help, it is your duty to take positive action.
We need to make sure that our Soldiers are as conditioned mentally as they are physically. At an initial training facility such as Fort Jackson, it is important to nurture a positive mindset, begin building and strengthening our Soldiers' resilience from Day One. Our Soldiers take what they learn here and go on to teach others. I know that I can count on our leadership to make sure our Soldiers are trained up accordingly.
Needless to say, during the past several years, mental fitness has gained the attention it deserves. We have come to understand that a Soldier is a made of a number of dimensions to include physical, emotional, social, spiritual and family elements.
We must continue to educate ourselves and evaluate our own comprehensive fitness levels, as well as that of our Soldiers. Our Army has learned a lot in the past 10 years; we need to continue to learn even more.
There is a need for professional military members-- from the newest recruit to the most senior officer -- to be very introspective at this point in our history about how a prolonged conflict, the longest war in our history, has affected us and our families. Our senior leaders have reiterated this time and time again.
The goal is to view these things in context and to make sure that recruiting, policies, education and training address these issues.
It will take our entire Army team working together to reverse these alarming trends. We must be vigilant 24/7, create a climate free of stigma and ensure our Soldiers, Civilians and their families get help when they need it.
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