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Suicide Prevention Alliance Focuses on Troops, Veterans

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 2011 – A suicide prevention task force for troops and veterans has been added to a national alliance that officials hope will help bring more attention to the issues and offer solutions in the future.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention last week announced that troops and veterans -– identified as a high-risk group –- were added because of their increased suicide rates.

“Combined with initiatives already under way by the Department of Defense and the [Department of Veterans Affairs], this task force will further strengthen prevention, bringing together the best minds in the public and private sectors,” said Army Secretary John McHugh, co-chair of the alliance.

The alliance was launched last year by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, with input and support of many public- and private-sector stakeholders, including the National Council for Suicide Prevention and VA.

Speaking Sept. 10, 2010 at the launch of the alliance -- a public-private partnership -- Gates emphasized the importance of a nationwide approach to suicide prevention. The alliance’s strategy pools federal and private-sector research and resources to work on addressing the national suicide rate.

"In everything we do, we must remember that every soldier, sailor, airman, or marine is part, not just of the military, but also a larger community. Their families, their hometowns, their civilian employers, their places of worship –- all must be involved in the solution," Gates said at the launch of the alliance held at the National Press Club here.

The military suicide rate has increased steadily over the past five years, exceeding the national average of 11.1 suicides per 100,000 people. The military last year averaged 12.5 suicides per 100,000, according DOD reports.

The leaders of the alliance’s Military and Veterans Task Force are Dr. Jan Kemp, national director of VA’s suicide prevention program, and Maggie Haynes, director of combat stress for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization.

In addition to the task force for service members and veterans, the alliance also established suicide-prevention task forces for other groups it determined are at high risk: American Indians and Alaska natives, and youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.


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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

1/20/2011 9:32:27 PM
I have met some of the finest young men and women whom are serving in our military. They are Our Country's finest who have given ever so much... year after year of rapid deployments and that is a lot of time away from their families, whom are a big part of their support system. Now with the shortage of therapists many of our Soldiers who need & seek assistance get pushed off in AA programs... run by untrained civilians whom may be good for alcoholism but not trained how to handle a soldier with PTSD. We owe these men and women assistance to deal with what we are asking of them. Seems to me we should be taking care of them now assuring they get more down time. So I must ask a question that won't be answered, Is this really the time for reduction in our militaryforces ? Those they want to cut are the reasons some of our troops are starting to see more time at home. Lets not go back to making them strangers in their own homes and communities. just my perspective
- Judy Bynes, Vestal, NY

1/5/2011 3:22:48 AM
It is good to see the link between DOD and DHHS. The next steps should be (1) expand the conceptual framework now reflecting psychiatry, psychology, and social work to include socio-psychology and sociology and (2) transition from propositional observations to theoretical statements. One should recall the initial suicide study was by Durkheim -- a sociologist-- based on the premise of individual action within a group context. CAPT Montoya, USPHS (Ret)
- CAPT Marco Montoya, Austin, Texas

1/3/2011 6:20:14 PM
I would hope that this program will address the commands of ships where sailors also do and have attempted suicide...only to be told...sailors cant get PTSD..so man up.. this is very sad as my own son has tried twice..then only to be punished for it, and now discharged without the proper help. Being sent to SARP, where even the councelors there said he was being treated for the wrong problem. But his command just wanted him gone...so they got their wish.
- Susan Skidmore, California

1/3/2011 4:37:10 PM
Is there any place to send suggestions about suicide prevention?
- W.G.Bumgardner, Missoula, MT

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