NPR—For the Army, Preventing Soldier Suicides Starts On Day 1

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Army has found that 79 percent of suicides in its ranks occurred in the first three years of life as a soldier, whether or not the soldier had been deployed. And suicides tend to happen during times of serious transition.

Alarmed at the growing rate of soldiers taking their own lives, the Army has begun investigating the effectiveness off its mental health and suicide prevention programs. It also has instituted many programs to counsel and train soldiers.

In its latest monthly report on suicides, the Army said 18 soldier deaths were under investigation — up from 13 the month before.

Transition for a soldier can mean a number of things: deploying to a combat zone, coming home, leaving a unit or leaving the Army. But one of the biggest transitions in any soldier's life is that first moment when the bus rolls into the processing center....

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineMilitary / Armed ForcesPsychologySuicide* Economics, PoliticsIraq WarWar in Afghanistan

2 Comments
Posted October 28, 2010 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

I went through basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in 1985.  We had 5 suicide attempts by different soldiers in 8 weeks.  Training was tough…it was the height of the Reagan build up during the Cold War (that conflict everyone has forgotten about).  Back then, the casualty rate for training and “peace time” operations exceeded the casualty rate of active combat in Iraq.  We were an all male, no “gays” organization back then.  Anyway, after the 5th person attempted suicide, our Drill Sergeants called a formation.  They appeared to be livid.  They shouted at us about being “mamby pambies” and “sissies”.  They stressed that we were horrible soldiers because, if we couldn’t succeed in killing ourselves, how could we ever kill the enemy?  They then offered to personally show us how to effectively kill ourselves.  They stressed that it was more effective for us to cut our carotid arteries in our necks rather than slicing our wrists.  They offered to give us a combat knife to do the job properly.  One offered the use of his personal pistol if we were too squeamish to use a knife.  They told us that there was more paperwork involved if one of us lived than if we killed ourselves properly.

I know that some of you think that those Drill Sergeants were heartless and cruel, speaking to us that way.  The fact is, that speech worked and there were no more suicide attempts and there were no successful suicides either.  The training was as tough as ever after their speech, maybe tougher.  My “battle-buddy” Brighty (his nickname) did his final PT 2-mile run with stress fractures in both feet.  I ran mine with bleeding blisters.  We were determined to succeed and never give up.  We went on to successfully finish our combat engineer training (that had a lot of explosives) and then our Military Occupational Specialty Schools…all with the same DI’s.  I remember my platoon’s DI’s and I am grateful for them.  They changed me and lead me to become a soldier…a warrior.  Many of you will never understand that, but I love those men.  They are part of me.  Being soft on trainees will lead them to die in combat and get a bunch of their friends killed as well.  It may also lead to a failure to win in battle that could end up costing your family their liberty.  It is better to have a trainee fail during training than to go on and get others killed in battle.  That may seem hard, but that is real love…not letting someone that will crack under pressure “succeed” and go on into situations that are nothing but pressure/stress…where they may be making life and death decisions for others…where their lack of fortitude may cause their comrades in arms to die.  Essayons.

October 28, 8:59 am | [comment link]
2. Ralph wrote:

One wonders how openly homosexual men, as well as effeminate men, will endure this sort of environment.

October 28, 9:32 am | [comment link]
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