August 30, 2010 at 5:22 pm #109668
Army Releases Suicide Report, Prevention Recommendations
I post the
following news item in its entirety verbatim because of is potential significance to the
GovLoop community. Moldeven
Suicide Report, Prevention Recommendations
By Army Sgt. 1st
Class Michael J. Carden
29, 2010 – An Army task force created to reduce the increasing rate of soldier
suicides released more than 250 recommendations, including establishing health
promotion councils at each installation, expanding behavioral health
screenings, and recruiting additional behavioral health counselors. Video
Army Gen. Peter W.
Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff and head of the task force, explained
that Army units have worked rigorously over the past decade to prepare for and
serve in combat. But leaders began to overlook signals and behaviors, including
misconduct, which may have indicated an increased risk of suicide for some
soldiers, the general told reporters at a Pentagon news conference today.
“You have to
understand that we prioritized … to fight our nation’s wars and to be ready and
tactically sound to go and do the mission we were given by the country,” he
said. “[Commanders] rightly prioritized the No. 1 thing that they were going to
do is to prepare their soldiers to go into harm’s way.
“Now, as we come
back and we start to see [time at home between deployments] increase — or at
least we forecast it’s going to increase — it’s time for the Army to take a
hard look at itself,” he continued. “What are those things that came lower on
our priority list that we need to re-institute, reinforce, and start doing to
get at this problem?”
promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention report outlines the Army’s
miscues, identifies indicators of suicide and, more importantly, offers more
than 250 recommendations to reduce the suicide risk.
identifies indicators of high-risk behaviors that are reflective of the stress
and strain on the force after almost a decade of persistent conflict,” the
general said. “It also identifies gaps in policies [and] procedures pertaining
to the surveillance and detection and mitigation of high-risk suicidal
The rate of soldier
suicides has risen in each of the past five years. In fiscal 2009, 160 soldiers
took their own lives, while there more than 1,700 attempts. Meanwhile, soldiers
without deployment experience or with one deployment account for 79 percent of
Newer soldiers are
at a higher risk, the general said.
“The most difficult
year to be in the Army is the first year,” Chiarelli said. “Sixty percent of
suicides occur in first-term soldiers.”
The Army’s top
priority is defending the nation, but it needs to give individual soldier
issues more attention, Chiarelli said, citing stressors outside of deployments,
such as family and financial issues and drug abuse. Army officials now are
focusing more efforts on building resilience in soldiers, Chiarelli said, and
therefore, reducing suicide calls for a change in the Army’s culture.
“If young leaders are
doing anything down there today, they ought to be focusing their sponsorship
programs on young soldiers coming into the unit — that soldier that just comes
out of basic [training] who’s trying to make friends, who is new to the unit,”
the general said. “These are the kinds of things and lessons that you draw from
this data that we believe are going to be absolutely essential for us getting a
handle on this.”
Over the past year,
the Army has launched the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program and the Master
Resilience Trainer Course. Both initiatives are geared to teaching soldiers at
the lowest levels to handle stress. The programs also give soldiers an outlet
to seek help.
noted, the Army has added 10 hours of resilience training in its basic training
curriculum for new recruits.
training, the general said, shows that a high rate of resilience can be taught.
data,” he added, “we have focused our effort with our master resilience
trainers at basic training. That’s the kind of thing that comes out of data
like this, and it allows us to focus our efforts to make sure that we’re
expending resources where we need to expend resources, and getting a very
valuable resource to us, the master resilience trainer, to the place that he
needs to be.
“If you have a
choice,” he continued, “it’s a great place to have him — in basic training,
beginning the process of making soldiers more resilient before they go to their
The Army must
continue such efforts and focus more on the health and well-being of the entire
force, including family members, Chiarelli said.
The task force
recommendations include tightening enlistment standards, establishing health
promotion councils at each installation, expanding behavioral health
screenings, and recruiting additional behavioral health counselors. The Army
also created 72 additional positions for chaplains, according to the task
noted that the number of recruiting waivers in 2009 is down almost 50 percent
from 2007. Such waivers allow recruits with certain medical conditions and
minor criminal offenses to enlist, helping the Army to meet recruiting goals.
Some of these soldiers, Chiarelli acknowledged, are considered a higher risk
for suicide than others, but he noted that the number of soldiers separated
from the Army for disciplinary reasons also is down over the past 12 years.
The general said
the report helps leaders understand how the Army has changed after a decade of
war. Some of these leaders, he said, have known nothing but the current high
operations tempo. The Army is paying more attention to soldiers who joined
shortly on, or around, Sept. 11, 2001, he added.
Many of these
soldiers now are senior leaders responsible for the training and well-being of
junior troops and don’t know the military that existed before the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan, he explained.
“You need to
understand that we’ve got platoon sergeants — E-7s in the United States Army
today — who joined the Army after Sept. 11, 2001,” he said. “Their life has
been constantly ‘reset, train, ready, deploy, and begin that process all over
again.’ We have families [for whom] that’s all they’ve ever experienced.”
The Army hopes to
build on the data it has gathered and it will continue to hone in the
information necessary to reduce the suicide rate, Chiarelli said. It’s a
difficult undertaking, but must be done, he added.
Army leaders now
understand that the health of the force is a priority, he said.
“I think our
commanders are understanding that now,” he said. “As we get deeper and deeper
in this, … the realization has come.”
recommendations are not yet Army policy. The report now must go through a
staffing process, where top leaders will make further determinations, Chiarelli
August 30, 2010 at 5:48 pm #109670
Military urged to create anti-suicide office after effort falls short, The [Louisville] Courier-Journal , Aug. 25, 2010 A yearlong review of Armed Forces suicide prevention efforts by a congressionally mandated Department of Defense task force has determined that current initiatives “could benefit from re-engineering.” According to the report, prevention programs were set up “rapidly and separately” by each branch of the Armed Forces, which resulted in a “lack of cohesion and coordination.” The task force makes 76 recommendations, including the creation of a new high-level office to guide suicide prevention efforts.
The Report: The challenge and the Promise: Strengthening the Force, Preventing Suicide and Saving Lives, is at
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