Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Army orders ‘stand-down’ in wake of suicide spike

Army orders ‘stand-down’ in wake of suicide spike

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, January 31, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army has ordered a servicewide “stand-down” for two to four hours of suicide prevention training, Army vice chief of staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli announced Thursday.

Commanders will be given latitude to hold the training any time between Feb. 15 and March 15. The decision came in the wake of Thursday’s announcement that soldier suicides are at a 30-year high.

Traditionally, the Army’s suicide rate has been below that of the general public, but now they are roughly equal, Army officials said Thursday.

Between 2007 and 2008, the number of soldiers who took their lives increased from 115 to 128, and 15 more deaths in 2008 are being investigated as potential suicides.

Afterwards, all soldiers will also get a “chain-teach” on suicide prevention, in which leaders teach their subordinates all the way down the chain of command, Army officials said.

“We believe that behavior is something that we must get at: The behavior of the soldier that may be thinking about this but not willing to talk about it because of potential stigmas,” said Reserve Maj. Gen. John Hawkins, deputy chief of Army G-1.

The training soldiers will receive includes group training in two scenarios: One about a soldier is contemplating suicide, and the other about a soldier who sees warning signs in his battle buddy, said Col. Thomas Languirand, of the Army’s Suicide Prevention Program.

“It’s a learning tool: You can make the wrong decisions and it will bring you to an outcome that is not desirable, but it has tips along the ways and it can bring the group back to the right decision-making tree that we’re looking for,” Languirand said.

Later, soldiers will see a video with vignettes about soldiers who have been brought back from the brink of suicide, and those who have attempted suicide, said Hank Minitrez, a spokesman for the Army G-1’s Human Resources Directorate.

The vignettes also include stories from senior leaders about how suicides have affected them, Minitrez said.

All soldiers, including those downrange, will be required to go through the suicide prevention training, he said.

Army Recruiting Command already ordered a one-day stand-down in February following a spate of suicides in a Houston-based recruiting battalion, according to Army Times.

And the United States Military Academy has ramped up its suicide prevention efforts after two cadets committed suicide since December, said academy spokesman Col. Bryan Hilferty.

The Washington Post first reported on Monday that the academy had asked for a team from the Army surgeon general’s office to investigate the recent suicides and two other suicide attempts.

The academy’s superintendent also ordered everyone on post to take suicide prevention classes by the end of January, and the commandant spoke to every cadet personally, Hilferty said.

Both cadets and civilians have been issued suicide prevention cards, and hundreds of suicide prevention posters have been displayed around campus, he said.

Army officials attribute multiple causes to why soldiers commit suicide, but they are at a loss to explain why the suicide rate is going up.

“Part of the reality that we all know is we have been working hard as an Army for a very long time,” said Col. Elspeth Ritchie, of the Army surgeon general’s office. “We’ve heard Gen. [George] Casey and others talk about being out of balance. We know we’re working very hard, very fast. What we don’t know — none of us has a silver bullet, none of us have the answers. If we did, we would have solved it a while ago.”


This is just more CYA BS, they need to have command meetings where the law is laid down to Commanders and NCO's that they are not to deprive soldiers of seeing mental health professionals, rather they should be encouraging it, the sooner the soldiers seek help the greater the chance they can keep the problems from becoming chronic PTSD veterans. The military says it encourages troops to seek mental health help, yet when they do they are harrassed by the chain of command and their fellow soldiers, so they do what soldiers have been doing for decades, they drink, they "suck it up" they "cope" and slowly spiral out of control until the day they explode. To hell with a "stand down" it's time for the Army to do serious "out reach" and let the soldiers know there will be no reprecussions for seeking help.

I know I was an NCO that spent years telling troops to "suck it up" the "team needs you" "don't be weak" "men don't cry" etc everything I was ever told by my father and my Officers and NCOs over the years.

I coped my way thru 4 ex wives, a few DUIs, a lost career at the Postal Service due to my DIUs, the opportunity to see my grand children due to my behavior, my daughters do not want me anywhere near their children and I can NOT blame them, I was an azzhole and I always blamed something or someone else for my problems.

It was not until Dec 2002 that I asked my primary care doctor at the VA for a referral to mental health, they put me thru a 4 month ordeal of MMPI tests, interviews and other tests, they were trying to "rule out PTSD" instead they diagnosed me with severe chronic PTSD that they established started in Feb 1975 when 7 fellow soldiers beat me unconcious and robbed me and left me for dead in a snowbank at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

I was able to identify only one of the men, he gave the names of the other six to the CID, and they arrested them at the barracks they day after I was released from the Bassett Army Medical center. Four men were charged with attempted murder and robbery and were convicted by general Court Martial back at Fort Lewis Washington where we were permanently assigned to the 2Battalion 47th Infantry Regiment.

Some of their friends attempted to shut me up while they were in pre-trial confinement, a shot into the barracks next to my head, another attempt was made while I was walking on the sidewalk next to the PX snackbar across the street from the company area, a car came off the street onto the sidewalk, I jumped to the right next to the building and rolled the car missed me, I went to the orderly room and reported it to the 1SG.

The day after the last court martial was completed I was given a reassignment to the Honor Guard 8th Army, Yongson South Korea, the Army was transferring me to keep me from being killed by friends of the guys in prison. The other 4 men were given field grade article 15's and reduced to E1 and given Bad Conduct Discharges.

I had many more "stressors" over my Army career, sights that I keep reliving thru nightmares or intrusional thoughts during the day, "day dreaming" certain things I see will trigger memories of the past. PTSD is a MF and I would give anything not to have it, but it is what it is, and I now spend my days advocating for outreach for the younger soldiers to hopefully keep them from making a lifetime of mistakes as I and many thousands of other soldiers have done.

I firmly believe early treatment can help, burying the thoughts does not work, a person has to work thru them, and the sooner the better.

Sphere: Related Content