DoD Leaders Paralyzed in Fight Against Military Suicide Epidemic; Army Announces it Will ‘Study the Studies’

Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno has ordered a team of officials to visit major installations across the country to study suicide prevention efforts. Odierno is the former commander of Fort Hood’s III Corps, the Army’s largest combat unit. Fort Hood recorded at least 22 suicides in 2010. Army officials say there have been seven soldier suicides at Fort Hood to date in 2012. The summer months historically is the peak ‘suicide season.’ (DoD)

Army to Renew Efforts to Combat High Suicide Rates

by Jeremy Schwartz
AMERICAN-Statesman, June 22, 2012

FORT HOOD — The Army chief of staff on Friday said he will dispatch top Army officials to major installations across the country to study suicide prevention efforts in hopes of lowering record suicide rates among active duty service members.

Gen. Ray Odierno made the announcement during a visit to Fort Hood, where alarming suicide numbers have helped galvanize national attention on the issue in recent years.

“Obviously suicide continues to be a major concern. It’s something that is vexing to us, and we have studied it incredibly hard,” Odierno told reporters. “We’re focused on this, and we’re going to sustain our focus on this.”

We have to make clear that we will not tolerate actions that belittle, that haze, that ostracize any individual, particularly those who have made the decision to seek professional help. — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

Odierno said Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Lloyd Austin would visit Army posts to study existing suicide prevention programs and look for improvements.

The Army has spent millions of dollars to implement a range of suicide prevention programs, but solutions have proven elusive so far: The Associated Press recently reported that active-duty suicide rates are at their highest point in the past decade, as the U.S. has waged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Odierno spoke hours after Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told an annual convention on military suicide in Washington, D.C., that suicide numbers among service members are moving in a “tragic direction.”

Panetta said part of the solution lies with commanding officers who have day-to-day contact with their troops.

“We have to make clear that we will not tolerate actions that belittle, that haze, that ostracize any individual, particularly those who have made the decision to seek professional help,” Panetta said in a speech to mental health professionals.

Panetta, who pledged to elevate mental fitness to the same level of importance as physical fitness, called suicide perhaps the most frustrating challenge he has come across since becoming defense secretary, in part because the trend is heading in the wrong direction even as more resources are aimed at the problem.

At Fort Hood, there have been 7 suicides this year as of early June, on pace to eclipse last year’s 10, but still less than the record 22 suicides in 2010, when one particularly difficult week saw four soldiers commit suicide.

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3 Responses

  1. Spencer, as a diagnosed veteran of Iraq, my son was very fortunate to receive the care he did after his injury and long stay at Bethesda in Maryland. He was screened for PTSD early in his stay (actually twice). I don’t know if it was because of the IED or that it was something that he clearly showed signs of early on, but he received the care he needed both due to his physcial injuries as well as the emotional, and mental trauma he experienced. I’m not sure how much help the psychological treatment he received was in his road to recovery. I do know that he saw a therapist for a year (required length given him) 2x a week. But, he also did something that he later told me he felt like he was drawn to do… He enrolled in school to become a massage therapist. (this was before I did). I can say without a doubt because of my own experience with personal trauma and because of my son’s experiences, massage therapy was extremely beneficial to both of us. I don’t advocate that someone suffering with symptoms of PTSD from any trauma for-go any psychological treatment, But the odds are immense that they will find relief from symptoms of PTSD through massage.

    Massage Therapists all over are realizing a very real need for our soldiers to receive regular massage and are starting to offer their services at local VAs and if there are any LMTs out there who read this and haven’t, now would be a good time to get involved.

    Touch is very important when helping the body, mind and soul to heal from any kind of trauma. I suggested reading material on another post. It explains why PTSD happens and is a good foundation for understanding what is happening to a person who suffers from PTSD. It can get a little technical, but aside from that, I recommend it.

  2. Would love to hear more details here about what you are doing in the mountains of N. New Mexico with your retreats and how meditation and Buddhist mind may help those struggling with a loss of desire to continue in this world. So glad you found this website, welcome. Keep comming back.

  3. Reblogged this on River's Flow New Mexico Blog and commented:
    WAKE UP!

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