WASHINGTON – According to the recent DoD Annual Report on Suicide in the Military, total Army suicides increased in 2021 over calendar year 2020. However, the number has been decreasing in 2022.
“One suicide is one too many, but I am encouraged that this year we have seen fewer suicides than last year,” said Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth. “We will continue working to build positive command climates that can help prevent suicide, while also improving access to mental health resources. Our people remain our top priority and we are committed to taking care of them.”
As of Sept. 30, 2022, the number of total Army suicides decreased by approximately 21% since Sept. 30, 2021. In addition, the number for family members also decreased by about 21%, and the number for Department of the Army civilian employees decreased by nearly 50%. This current trend indicates that initiatives that were implemented during the last couple of years, including ones that encourage help-seeking behavior, are helping to decrease the number of suicides.
“We want our Soldiers to know that getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness,” said Gen. James C. McConville, Chief of Staff of the Army. “The Army’s goal is to make it as easy as possible for Soldiers to get the help they need.”
During the past two years, the Army has increased prevention resources across the Total Army to combat suicide in its ranks, despite challenges such as COVID-19 and social-distancing precautions. Army initiatives include:
New Army Suicide Prevention Policy – In the fourth quarter of calendar year 2022, the Army is scheduled to publish a new policy that encourages engaged leadership, updates roles and responsibilities, identifies resources available to leaders, updates reporting requirements, and provides guidance on structure and working groups, among other directives.
Wellness Checks - Army commanders have demonstrated engaged leadership by implementing preventative measures, such as mandating 100% wellness checks at select locations such as 11th Airborne in Alaska, Fort Bliss, Fort Drum, Fort Riley, and Fort Stewart.
Suicide Prevention Chain Teach - In FY22, the Army required senior commanders to deliver in-person suicide prevention guidance to subordinate commanders, down to the platoon level. The purpose was to familiarize leaders at each echelon with the Army’s Suicide Prevention Program and available resources.
Leader Training - ARD briefs all new Battalion and Brigade Commanders on Suicide Prevention at the Pre-Command Course. The briefing centers on informing Commanders on policies and the tools they have in place to implement resilience efforts and the prevention of suicides, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.
Integrated Prevention - The Army is in the process of implementing a new integrated prevention workforce, Army Integrated Prevention Advisory Group, or I-PAG. The I-PAG will operationalize the Army Integrated Prevention Strategy by supporting commanders in building and sustaining positive climates and reducing harmful behaviors such as suicide through collaboration with organizational, installation-based, and nonclinical providers as part of comprehensive community based integrated prevention activities.
Lethal Means Communication Materials – The Army Resilience Directorate developed Lethal Means Safety Communication Materials, which include resources to increase awareness of lethal-means objects that may be used in a suicide attempt. Prevention is the focus, with easy safe-storage tips and lifestyle advice aimed at increasing time and space between individuals and objects that may be used to take one’s life.
Publication of Two Handbooks – In fiscal year 2022, the Center for Army Lessons Learned published the Senior Commander’s Guide to Suicide Prevention and the Brigade/Battalion CDR’s Guide to Suicide Prevention. These handbooks provide tools for commanders to implement effective suicide prevention programs, including lethal-means safety guidance.
New Awareness Campaign – In FY21, the Army deployed a new suicide prevention awareness campaign called "This is Our Army: Not Every Fight is on the Battlefield," which encourages looking for warning signs and engaging in help-seeking behaviors.
These and other parts of the Army's public health approach is based on the Centers for Disease Control’s suicide prevention efforts. The Army will continue working to create more positive command climates and Soldier resources to prevent suicide in the future.