Task Force Vows Sharper Focus on Soldier Suicides
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2010 The number of suspected soldier suicides increased for the first month of this year, and the Army’s head of suicide prevention vowed today to sharpen the focus on combating the problem.
“In the new year, we won’t just maintain our current focus on suicide prevention; we’re going to sharpen that focus,” Army Col. Christopher Philbrick, director of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force, said in a statement the service released today, along with higher numbers of suspected suicides.
“We’ve made significant changes in our health promotion, risk reduction, and suicide prevention programs, policies, and initiatives,” Philbrick said. “But over the last year, you could describe our Army effort as shining a flood light on the problem of suicide. Now in 2010, we’re going to move from a flood light to a laser light – identifying our most effective programs so we can target and reinforce what’s working and fix what isn’t.”
For January, the Army identified 12 potential suicides – one confirmed, the rest under investigation – among active-duty soldiers, compared to 10 potential suicides among the same group in December, an Army news release says. Of the 10 in December, three have been confirmed as suicides and seven remain under investigation.
Also for January, the Army identified 15 potential suicides among reserve-component soldiers who were not on active duty, compared to seven in December. Of the seven, five have been confirmed as suicides and two investigations are pending, the release says.
2009 saw 160 reports of potential soldier suicides, the most since the Army began recording such data in 1980, Army officials have said.
Still, the Army is being recognized for its suicide prevention programs. In January, the Suicide Prevention Resource Council and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention selected the service’s “Ask, Care, Escort” model for inclusion in their national registry of best practices in suicide prevention, along with 12 other programs.
The Army last year began a partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health to prevent suicides.
“One suicide prevention approach that is working is the Army’s ‘Ask, Care, Escort’ model of suicide prevention,” Philbrick said, adding that the model “is fundamentally about engaged, concerned leadership, and caring for your fellow soldier. That’s something the Army knows how to do.”