By Mr. Paul Boyce (FORSCOM)September 13, 2007
The U.S. Army is participating in National Suicide Prevention Week Sept. 9 -15 by re-emphasizing its focus on suicide-prevention awareness and training to its more than 1.1 million Soldiers as well as their families -- particularly in light of a concerning increase in the Army's suicide rate for calendar year 2006.
The theme this year, "Suicide Prevention: Moving Forward with Education and Training," matches the Army's prevention priorities. The loss of any member of the Army family is a tragedy, and the Army has made prevention of suicide a top priority. While the Army has been tracking suicides since 1980, beginning in 2003, the Army started to see an overall increase in the number of confirmed suicides committed by Soldiers while on active duty from 79 in 2003 to 88 in 2005 to 99 in 2006.
"The loss of any member of the Army Family is a tragedy, and the Army has made prevention of suicide a top priority, " said Col. Dennis W. Dingle, Director of the Army's Human Resources Policy Directorate. "The Army recognizes this issue and is taking deliberate steps to mitigate those risks that may contribute to suicidal behavior."
One step the Army took to reduce suicidal behavior is the creation of the Army Suicide Prevention Program. This program focuses on minimizing suicidal behavior by training Soldiers, leaders and Family members to recognize signs of suicidal behavior, intervention strategies and how to refer individuals for follow-on support and care. Program strategies include: developing life-coping skills, encouraging help-seeking behavior, buddy aid, maintaining constant vigilance, integrating and synchronizing unit and community programs, and maintaining surveillance of suicidal behaviors. Each year, the Army reviews its program and strives to improve its strategies based on the current environment and lessons learned.
Though its number of suicides increased in 2006, the Army's suicide rate still is lower than the rate for the same age and gender group in the overall U.S. population, according to a report the service released today.
The Army Suicide Prevention Program has been in place since 1986. In 2006, the Army formed an additional team comprised of functional experts, including: The Office of The Surgeon General, the Office of The Chief of Chaplains, both the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve, the Family Morale Welfare Recreation Command and other functional experts to help fully integrate Army suicide-prevention efforts. The Army instituted an even more robust review process in recent years looking not only at suicides but also at other indicators providing an assessment of potential risk factors.. As a result, the Army continuously is improving and adapting its training, intervention and Soldier-support programs.
Army Installations across the U.S. and overseas will be observing the week with increased training and information programs available to Soldiers and their families.
"During this week, I encourage you to focus on promoting innovative suicide prevention efforts designed to increase awareness of this public health problem, promote help-seeking in persons at risk, and improve coordination and collaboration between garrison human service activities," said Brig. Gen. John A. Macdonald, Deputy Commander, U.S. Army Installation Management Command.
A key message the Army wants its Soldiers to know it that they should seek help for depression and suicidal behavior just as they would for a physical injury like a broken leg.
"We need to make sure that all our Soldiers know that it's OK to come in and get help, and we're there to offer it to you," Col. Elspeth C. Ritchie, behavioral health psychiatry consultant to the U.S. Army Surgeon General, said. "I think it is very important for everybody to recognize how difficult a completed suicide is on the Soldier's family, on the Soldier's unit, on the friends, on the whole system, and the pain and hurt of a suicide lasts for years."
For information on suicide prevention awareness and training, visit the following Army websites:
Army G-1 Suicide Prevention Link:
USACHPPM Suicide Prevention Link:
Army Behavioral Health Website:
Media needing more information may contact Army Public Affairs, at (703) 697-2564.