Pentagon’s Top Military Officer Claims Suicide Epidemic Remains Poorly Understood Problem, Rooted in Society; Calls for More Resilience Training
by Gen. Martin Dempsey
National Press Club, Oct. 10, 2012
Q: What is the next step to reducing suicides among active duty service members?
A: Yeah, I, ya know … ‘step’ implies there is something sequential here and it’s not.
This is really another one that, ya know, you just, we really need to continue, to learn about what’s happening.
Now look, some of it is societal.
You know, the young men serving … Suicide is a national problem.
It also happens to be a dire, important, serious military problem. But something out there is changing in the resilience of young men and women today.
And so, one of the things we’re looking at is what do you gotta do when you recruit these young men and women off the streets of America, ya know.
How do we, how do we build resilience into the force — from birth — and how do ya sustain it through a career where there are pressures; whether it’s a deployment, or whether it’s combat, or whether it’s even life, whether it’s life-altering incidents; divorce, ya know financial challenges?
It’s, it’s really an issue of building resilience over time.
Secondly, there is, ya know, there is a correlation. There’s a medical component of that — I think — that we’ve gotta address; and there’s also ya know the, the, the, the, the trust of the force is really what I think ultimately provides us the best chance to get, to get a grip on this. And here’s what I mean by that.
If I show up in a unit and I can’t do enough push-ups to pass the PT [physical training] test … you know that some sergeant is gonna be out there and say, “Come here young man. I want you to partner with her. She maxes her PT test every time she takes it.”
And so for the next three months you’re gonna do physical training with her. And by the end of that time you’re gonna pass the PT test.
There’s really nothing exactly like that for, for, ya know, states of depression.
And, um, that’s what we gotta figure out; is how do you get the entire force, not just the leaders. The leaders understand it … that’s not true … the leaders understand the significance of it.
I’m not sure we really understand the depth and breadth of the issue.
But, the leaders get it.
We gotta drive it to the lowest level.
It’s not preventable, back to the same, you know, you asked me can we stop insiders threats? No, but were trying to do as much as we can. Can you stop suicides? No, but we gotta do as much as we can and we gotta keep at it.
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