Casualties At Home: Soldier Suicide

By: Danielle Eldredge Email
By: Danielle Eldredge Email

Military suicide rates have surpassed those in the civilian population for the first time ever.

To elaborate, the army released this study in august which explains in 2008 the army suicide rate was about 20 soldiers for every 100 thousand. The civilian population measured 19 per 100 thousand.

Things haven't improved since. Last year saw the highest rate of military suicides in history.

The army says they are working hard to reverse... These casualties at home.

"When you lose a soldier to suicide, that's a battlefield loss. You just lost a soldier. You’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror and say what could I have done to prevent this?" said General Jack Stultz, U.S. Army Reserve Chief.

This is a training documentary for soldiers called, "Shoulder to Shoulder." It's a component of the army's suicide prevention efforts. It features comments from army leaders and stories from real soldiers who experience distress. Army officials say it's all in an effort to eliminate the stigma surrounding suicide.

“I know commanders, I know leaders, I know senior leaders that are seeking services and they are making it known to their subordinates. This would have been unheard of 5-10 years ago,” said Donald Schuman, ASAP Clinical Director at Fort Rucker.

Schuman says combating increasing suicide rates is one of the army's primary focuses. In addition to “Shoulder to Shoulder,” the army has recently developed many accessible suicide prevention guides like the Ace Card.

“It's something that a soldier caries around and it’s simply a suicide intervention piece. Ask your buddy, care for your buddy, escort your buddy, and it simply talks about if you see these certain signs and things like that. It gets the soldier involved at the soldier level,” said Schuman.

The army has also conducted multiple studies to identify soldier suicide triggers and risk factors.

“We know the most vulnerable times when a person is at risk for harming oneself. The number one risk factor is relationship problems, work stressors, and of course we've been fighting a global war on terrorism for 8 or so years now,” said Schuman.

Army officials have also worked on improving counseling techniques.

“We are working to follow up with them and answer the question...which is a real tough question to answer, did you get what you needed or did you just stop coming? We follow them up now at 30 days 90 days 120 days and beyond,” said Schuman.

However, officials say these adjustments aren't relevant if soldiers don't take the first step...reaching out for help.
“If you become psychologically sick you have an obligation to go to the mental health people and get better; and we're doing everything we can do to de-stigmatize our services.

In addition to boosting their counseling follow-through, the army has also employed risk- reduction program coordinators who gather and analyze suicide data throughout the installation.

The army has also agreed to a 5 year study which is supported through 50 million dollars of army funds.


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