Army Tackles Suicide with Soldier Fitness, Other Programs

A few weeks ago the US Army noted that while active duty suicides were down last year, suicides in the Guard and Reserve were up.  Notably, while the stereotype is a forlorn Soldier who cannot reconnect after a year of combat, more than half of the Guard Soldiers who committed suicide had not deployed.

The Army, understandably unable to find a “silver bullet” to stop suicide, credits a variety of new programs with at least appearing to staunch the tragic flow:

The reduction in active-duty suicides shows progress, [Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter] Chiarelli said. He attributed the decrease partly to the stand-up of the service’s Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Council and Task Force in 2009, and the programs and policy changes it’s instituted.

More soldiers are using the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program, and the Pain Management Task Force is monitoring the increased use of pain medication, specifically anti-anxiety drugs by soldiers, Chiarelli said. He added that more soldiers received face-to-face post-deployment behavioral health screenings.

The article implies the increase in suicide may actually be mirroring a trend in civilian society, rather than reflecting a unique increase in the military.  It does not appear that national suicide rates are tracked as closely as those in the military.  The last statistics cited by the National Institute of Mental Health is 2007.