Military, Chaplains Fight Suicide Trend

September is the US Army’s “suicide prevention month.”

The US military, and the US Army in particular, have fought a long battle to prevent servicemembers from taking their own lives.  An Army article notes the efforts of Chaplains in Iraq to fight the growing trend of suicide in the ranks:

“We want to prevent suicide, but we need to do more than just tell people to not kill themselves,” said [Chaplain] LtCol Keith Goode… “We need to give them something to live for, we need to affirm life.”

An Air Force article entitled “Life is precious” recently covered the same topic, as a commander recounted the suicide of a member of his unit: 

In a conversation with the lieutenant’s family, they pleaded with me to develop programs in the Air Force for members to seek help without affecting their careers. I had to swallow the lump in my throat and tell the family members about all the programs the Air Force does have for members to seek help when life seems out of control.

I discussed with them the ability to see a military family life consultant, Airman and Family Readiness Center counselors, chaplains, and of course, mental health providers.

I started to wonder if we weren’t getting the message out to our Airmen, but then remembered all the base bulletins with this information, the commander’s calls where people from the MFLC, A&FRC and chaplains briefed these programs. I remembered the suicide training we received and how it covers the avenues for help.

The Army has also produced a new video called Shoulder to Shoulder: “I will never quit on life,” which has dramatic real life stories and many comments from Chaplains explaining their role in suicide prevention — including Chaplains (plural) who faced those same struggles themselves.  Chaplains have previously been targeted for their attempts to reverse the trend of suicide; now, more than ever, it appears they remain a crucial piece of the ongoing effort to combat this tragedy in the US military.