I’ve processed many documented and oral ‘complaints’ that were initiated by military and civil service personnel, retired military and families as well as from the private sector of the installation’s adjacent community. I cannot recall ever ‘ignoring’ or discarding a communication that was received and recorded in the IG as a ‘complaint’ that could be read, heard (telephone or directly in a personal interview) or a Congressional Inquiry.
There is one aspect of handling complaints from active duty military that began to appear during the Viet Nam War and has carried over into the present. Online searches for statistics on military deaths by suicide during Viet Nam vary. One source indicated 382 suicides. Currently, media report numbers and trends on military suicides. Stigma, a malicious lie, can contribute to suicide ideation among the innocent.
Normally, in our IG shop, an active or retired member of the Armed Forces who came to our office to personally present a complaint was interviewed by a military officer on the IG staff. Whenever possible, the interviewer was at the same grade or higher. When a military person was not available, and the complainant agreed, I, as senior civilian, would conduct the interview to get the process underway. When I was on duty as a volunteer ‘hotline’ counselor at the community suicide prevention service, I was sometimes useful to my co-counselors in situations where familiarity with on-base functions and contacts helped. An IMORTANT point here is that my suicide prevention indoctrination and training sessions helped me enormously toward doing my ‘complaints’ duties on-the-job and in giving talks on and off the base on suicide prevention and ‘myths/facts of suicide.
I am a layman in all mental health disciplines. Nevertheless, hearing and processing complaints and Congressional Inquiries, plus my involvement in suicide prevention led me to post the following item on June 1, 2009 to the U. S. ‘Open Government Dialogue’. The formal posting:
‘Suicide Prevention in All Federal Departments’
Department of Defense components have created ‘suicide prevention’ programs and trained their military and civilian personnel to be alert and responsive to the needs of their organizations and circumstances. The DoD programs lend themselves to being adapted throughout all Federal Departments and Agencies. When the Federal Government (as an employer) adopts ‘suicide prevention’ as an essential element in the health and well-being of its employees then similar concepts and practices will have a better chance in the private sector.
I suggest a top down policy to all federal departments that will encourage suicide prevention ‘gatekeeper’ training for federal employees in supervisory positions, who hear and investigate employee complaints, interact with survivors of suicide (military and civilian), and others that have duties in law enforcement, security, mental health, supervising conduct of prisoners, and otherwise relevant positions.
Why Is This Idea Important?
‘The nation is experiencing extraordinary stresses that adversely influence people in all walks of life. The number of calls to suicide prevention ‘hotlines’ has increased. Employers have a role in dealing with suicidal conduct, ideation, and attempts. Police officers and hospital staff often see successful suicides. Understanding the phenomenon and how to interact with a suicidal person, including getting him or her to professional help ASAP is vital. Suicide prevention is everybody’s business.
My blog is at
(Added as ‘fair use’ on May 6, 2010)
Excerpt: Clinician’s Corner, Suicide Prevention Strategies, A Systematic Review
Context In 2002, an estimated 877 000 lives were lost worldwide through suicide. Some developed nations have implemented national suicide prevention plans. Although these plans generally propose multiple interventions, their effectiveness is rarely evaluated.
Objectives To examine evidence for the effectiveness of specific suicide-preventive interventions and to make recommendations for future prevention programs and research.
Conclusions Physician education in depression recognition and treatment and restricting access to lethal methods reduce suicide rates. Other interventions need more evidence of efficacy. Ascertaining which components of suicide prevention programs are effective in reducing rates of suicide and suicide attempt is essential in order to optimize use of limited resources.