October 1, 2006
Suicide rates in the military are about half the number of those in the general military-aged population for the same age groups, but the Department of Defense is reaching out to its members to help further reduce the number of suicides within its ranks, a DOD official said.

The suicide rate for military members during 2005 was 11 per 100,000, said Dr. David Tornberg, deputy assistant secretary of defense for clinical and program policy.

Each of the services has its own tailored suicide-prevention program. But all the programs make mental-health support and suicide prevention available to service members before, during and after deployment.

Medical screenings that include mental-health factors, given before and after deployments, help identify people in distress. During deployments, mental-health-support teams and chaplains provide support. Unit leaders are trained to recognize telltale signs and steer their troops to the services they need.

Service members often form the first line of defense, looking out for each other. When a Soldier is concerned that a buddy's in trouble, Tornberg advises the Soldier to ask the buddy if he or she is considering suicide. If so, the person should be encouraged to seek counseling. If that doesn't work, Tornberg urges people to go to their unit leaders, chaplains or mental-health professionals with their concerns.

Troops returning from deployments go through a reintegration process that includes briefings about difficulties they may encounter re-entering society, and communicating with their families and friends.