By Lt. Col. George WrightApril 24, 2009
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 24, 2009) -- Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli recently signed the Army Campaign Plan for Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention. The comprehensive plan mandates unprecedented changes in Army doctrine, policy, and resource allocation, and provides immediate guidance to commanders to address the problem of suicides, Army senior leaders said.
The Campaign Plan is the result of efforts that began in January, when Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Chief of Staff of the Army George W. Casey Jr. gave Chiarelli the responsibility of overseeing comprehensive integration of the Army's efforts to prevent suicides.
"After visiting six installations and talking to all levels of command and staff, those who provide care, support, and services, and Soldiers and their Families, I realized we needed to take a much more holistic approach in 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 the second will happen," Chiarelli said. "I want to tell our Soldiers, civilians and our families, your Army hears you, and this campaign is a direct result of the things I learned from you on my visits."
On March 23, the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force and Army Suicide Prevention Council were established to rapidly analyze and assess existing programs and develop solutions to reduce the rate of suicide in the Army. The task force is an interim organization, charged with making urgent and lasting changes in the way the Army approaches health promotion, risk reduction, and suicide prevention.
The Army's Suicide Prevention Council includes leaders from across the Army who convene to identify and fix problem areas, and make adjustments to current policy, programs, and resources. Both the Task Force and the Council are focused on setting the conditions for Army-wide improvements.
"We're taking a strategic look at the Army's many existing programs, policies and initiatives that are connected to health promotion, risk reduction, and suicide prevention," said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director of the Suicide Prevention Task Force. "By conducting a comprehensive analysis of our current processes and systems, and then taking action to improve those processes, we're confident we can reduce the rate of suicide and achieve overall enhancements in positive life-coping skills of our Army community.
"We're definitely making specific changes, but the most important change will be to the Army culture," McGuire said. "Our intent is that every Soldier, Army civilian, and family member better understand what each of us can and must do to prevent suicides, and what we're doing to help our entire Army Family become more resilient people, in every aspect of their lives."