The Army released suicide data for the month of November today. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 12 potential suicides, all of which are pending determination of the manner of death. For October, the Army reported 16 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, three have been confirmed as suicides, and 13 remain under investigation.
There were 147 reported active duty Army suicides from January 2009 through November 2009. Of these, 102 have been confirmed, and 45 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 127 suicides among active-duty soldiers.
During November 2009, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were two potential suicides. Among that same group, from January 2009 through November 2009, there were 71 reported suicides. Of those, 41 were confirmed as suicides, and 30 remain under investigation to determine the manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 50 suicides among reserve soldiers who were not on active duty.
In a media roundtable on Nov. 17, 2009, Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, confirmed that the total number of suicides in the Army during 2009 had exceeded the total for 2008.
“We conduct an exhaustive review of every suicide within the Army,” said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director, Suicide Prevention Task Force. “What we have learned is that there is no single or simple answer to preventing suicide. This tells us that we must continue to take a holistic approach to identifying and helping soldiers and families with issues such as behavioral health problems, substance abuse, and relationship failures.”
Although operational tempo and frequent deployments are often cited as possible causes for the Army’s increased suicide rate, data gathered through the Army’s efforts has not shown a link between operational tempo and suicide.
“We have analyzed this part of the problem very closely,” said Walter Morales, Army suicide prevention program manager. “So far, we just haven’t found that repeated deployments and suicide are directly connected. Approximately 30 percent of suicides in the Army occur among those who have never deployed. Many others occur among those who have deployed once. This means we have to continue to reach the entire Army community with effective suicide prevention programs, for those who have deployed and those who haven’t.”
In addition to the Army’s current campaign plan to improve the full spectrum of health promotion, risk reduction, and suicide prevention programs, the Army is testing pilot programs in virtual behavioral health counseling, enhanced behavioral health counseling before and after deployment, and expanded privacy protections for soldiers seeking substance abuse counseling.
For example, the Army recently completed the Virtual Behavioral Health Pilot Program (VBHPP) at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The VBHPP team is now analyzing the initial results to help the Army better determine whether the program should be expanded to additional units and locations. Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_24.pdf .
Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCOE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647; their Web site address is http://www.militaryonesource.com . Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.
The DCOE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org , and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil .
The Army’s comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/default.asp .
More information about the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at http://www.army.mil/csf/ .