Sunday, May 24, 2009

Military is trying to figure out why there is a surge in suicides

In 2008, 140 soldiers on active duty took their own lives, continuing a trend in which the number of suicides has increased more than 60 percent since 2003, surpassing the rate for the general U.S. population.

To deal with the problem, the Army has added to the ranks of mental health and substance abuse counselors. The service also required all units to cease operations for two to four hours to talk about suicide prevention in February and March.

Chiarelli's monthly meetings are the Army's way of sleuthing out patterns and identifying new policies to deal with the trend.
The answer to this puzzling problem is found within the same article. To help, I've bolded it.:
The Army's biggest challenge is that its volunteer force is in uncharted territory. Many soldiers are now in the midst of their third or fourth combat tour, and Army surveys show that mental health deteriorates with each one. Senior Army officials said they are focusing more resources, including extra mental health counselors, where troops are returning from multiple deployments. This year, Fort Campbell, Ky., which is home to the frequently deployed 101st Airborne Division, has had 14 suicides.

"We probably don't know how many mental health care providers we need after eight years of war and three and four deployments," Chiarelli said.
Um... guys. The military is broken. Soldiers are people and they are used up and tired. You can't have an Eternal War on a Noun and expect only a small percentage of the American population to fight it ... forever. You can't extend tours, use stop-loss, badger and harass soldiers into reenlisting, lie to get potential recruits to sign up, ignore signs of mental stress and ptsd, provide crappy veteran's care and not have a backlash.

How about this? Stop the wars. Bring the soldiers home. Focus the attentions of the mental health care providers on our troops at home who will need assistance in fitting back into society. It just might work!

Update: Remembered this post a little more than a year ago about the estimate of attempted suicides.... 12,000.

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