The Army released suicide data for the month of May today, reporting one confirmed suicide and 16 potential suicides among active duty soldiers. In the April report, the Army reported seven active duty potential suicides. Since that time an additional suicide was reported, for a total of eight April potential suicides, three of which have been confirmed and five remain under investigation. There have been 82 reported active duty suicides in the Army during calendar year 2009. Of these, 45 have been confirmed as suicides, and 37 are pending final determination of manner death. For the same period in 2008, there were 51 suicides among active duty soldiers.
During May 2009, among reserve component soldiers who are not on active duty, there was one confirmed suicide and seven potential suicides; to date in 2009, among that same group, there have been 16 confirmed suicides, and 21 potential suicides are currently under investigation. For the same period in 2008, there were 23 suicides among reserve soldiers who were not on active duty.
In January, the Army implemented an Army-wide effort to combat the rise of suicide in its ranks. The Army mandated a suicide prevention stand-down that involved all 1.1 million soldiers; established a Suicide Prevention Task Force; has made dozens of improvements to Army policies, procedures and resources; and recruited additional psychological and behavioral health counselors.
"We have got to do better," said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, "It's clear we have not found full solutions to this yet. But we are trying every remedy and seeking help from outside agencies that are experts in suicide prevention. There isn't a reasonable suicide prevention tool out there the Army won't potentially employ."
The Army's Suicide Prevention Task Force is focused on rapid improvements across the spectrum of health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention to ensure the Army's programs in these areas are coordinated, fully-resourced, and effective.
"As hard as this problem truly is, in some ways it is also very basic, because it requires caring for soldiers, and that's something we already know how to do," said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "We must simultaneously get back to basics and optimize current programs to set conditions for future programs to tackle this problem."
The Army has identified additional crisis intervention resources available to the Army community. Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance are strongly encouraged to contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center (DCoE). Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental United States is 1-800-342-9647, the Military One Source Web site can be found at 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, or at http://www.dcoe.health.mil/media/DCoE_News/DCoE_Outreach_Center.aspx.
The Army's most current suicide prevention information is located at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/.