Army sees slight reduction in suicides

| January 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

Rob McIlvaine
Army News Service

National Guard and Army Reserve suicides nearly double in 2010

Prevent Suicide

Prevent Suicide

WASHINGTON — Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, reported a slight reduction this past year in suicides committed by Soldiers on active duty, from 162 in 2009, to 156 in 2010.

“While we achieved modest success in reducing the number of suicides of these Soldiers on active duty, we saw a significant increase in the number of suicides of Soldiers not serving on active duty, to include a doubling in the Army National Guard,” he said.

In 2009, the number of Guard and Reserve Soldiers who committed suicide while not serving on active duty was 80. In 2010, that number nearly doubled to 145.

“In 2010, we’ve got two obvious questions: First of all what happened, and second, we have to be able to respond and tell people what we are doing about it,” said Maj. Gen. Ray Carpenter, acting director of the Army National Guard.

According to Carpenter, the analysis for 2010 shows that suicide is not a deployment problem, because more than 50 percent of the people who committed suicide in the Army National Guard had never deployed. Suicide is not a problem of employment, either, because only about 15 percent of the people who committed suicide were without a job.

“Part of it is a significant relationship problem, because over 50 percent of those who committed suicide had some sort of a partner problem that they were dealing with, whether it was marriage, divorce or boyfriend, girlfriend, that kind of thing,” Carpenter said.

To help understand the factors involved with suicide, the Army has partnered with the National Institute of Mental Health on a program called Army STARRS, a study to assess risk and resilience in service members.

During this five-year study, researchers hope to identify the risk and protective factors that affect a Soldier’s psychological resilience, health and potential for self-harm.

“Some of our programs are beginning to work, but more important than anything else, our leaders are fully engaged with this problem right now,” Chiarelli said. “We’re getting at the stigma issue, we’re getting people the help that they need, and I hope you’re going to see these numbers go down significantly in the coming year.“

Suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death among 25- to 44-year-olds in the U.S. In 2008, the suicide rate in the Army exceeded the age-adjusted rate in the civilian population — 20.2 out of 100,000 versus 19.2.

While the stresses of the current wars, including long and repeated deployments and post-traumatic stress, are important potential contributors for research to address, the study will examine a wide range of factors related to and independent of military service, including unit cohesion, exposure to combat-related trauma, personal and economic stresses, family history, childhood adversity and abuse, and overall mental health.

“When we put more time between deployments, that is going to be a huge factor in helping get at a lot of these problems,” Chiarelli said. “I really believe that dwell (time) is one of the things we have to look at, and (it) has an impact on all kinds of problems, not just suicides, but … relationship issues to drug and alcohol abuse, to high-risk behavior, to all those things. The more time we can get between deployments, the better off we’ll be.”

The Army’s comprehensive list of suicide prevention programs and information is available at www.preventsuicide.army.mil. Soldiers and families can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, at 800-273-TALK (8255) or by visiting www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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Category: Armed Forces Press Service, Health, News

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