April 10, 2009

The Army released suicide data for March today, reporting 13 potential suicides during the month. All 13 cases are currently under investigation to confirm the cause of death.

In the February report, the Army reported two suicides and 16 pending investigations. Since that report, the Army updated the numbers to reflect eight confirmed suicides, 10 pending investigations, and two additional deaths under investigation. There have been 56 reported suicides in the Army during 2009. Of these, 22 have been confirmed, and 34 are pending confirmation of suicide as the cause of death.

"The Army's charter is more about improving the physical, mental, and spiritual health of our Soldiers and their families than solely focusing on suicide prevention - if we do the first, we are convinced that the second will happen," said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, who recently completed an eight-day, suicide-prevention tour that included visits to six major Army installations.

The Army is currently engaged in a three-phased Suicide Prevention Training Program that will reach Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians, and Family members. Phase one of the program consisted of an Army-wide suicide stand-down and was completed March 15. The second phase, which includes a suicide prevention 'chain-teach,' is currently underway and is scheduled to reach the entire Army community by July 15. The third phase will continue indefinitely through annual training requirements.

In addition to specific suicide prevention programs, another major focus for Army leaders is eliminating the stigma associated with seeking mental health care.

"Any Soldier, from Private to General, may need help at some time in their Army career," Chiarelli said. "Seeking that help, without fear of stigma, has to become second nature in our Army community, it has to become part of our culture. We're not there yet, but we're going to get there."

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