After the US Army experienced its highest ever tally of active-duty suicides last July, it seems that recent efforts to address the problem of suicide within the ranks has not proven effective. In July, 38 servicemembers’ deaths are either confirmed or expected suicide. USA Today reports that the pace with which these statistics are stacking up has increased 22% since last year. Also, Bruce Shabaz, an army analyst, says that now more veteran soldiers are taking their own lives as opposed to younger soldiers. Previously, the army suspected that prolonged deployments drove some soldiers to suicide; Shabaz says that a current theory is that soldiers that have been drawn-down are dealing with troubling home lives.
The Army, however, is attempting to respond to these numbers quickly. John McHugh, the Secretary of the Army, will be releasing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention on Monday, September 10. There will also be a “health fair,” held in the Pentagon courtyard later in the week that will focus on suicide prevention. A public-service announcement from the Army surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho has released a video on YouTube urging leaders to ensure suicidal soldiers seek help. And, the VA’s Veteran’s Crisis Line (800-273-8255 x1) is available 24/7 to help soldiers who are in crisis and need immediate support.
Also, General Lloyd J. Austin III, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, has ordered an Army-wide stand-down that will focus on suicide prevention. A previous stand-down in 2009 required that each installation’s efforts were uniform across the army. Gen. Austin says that this stand-down will be more individualized and focus less on training and more on activities that also involve soldiers’ families.
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