US Armys record suicide rate horrible, says Vice CofS

#1
Army's record suicide rate 'horrible,' general says
Despite high total, awareness campaign shows signs of helping


By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli on Tuesday called the Army's record suicide rate this year "horrible" and said the problem of soldiers taking their own lives is the toughest he has faced in his 37 years in service.

As of Nov. 16, 140 soldiers on active duty and 71 soldiers not on active duty were suspected to have committed suicide. "We are almost certainly going to end the year higher than last year," which was also a record for Army suicides, Chiarelli said at a Pentagon news conference.

"This is horrible," he said. "Every single loss is devastating."

However, Chiarelli, who has made suicide prevention a priority, said that despite the high total, the monthly suicide rate has largely declined since March.

In January and February, there were about 40 suicides, or about one-third of the active-duty total this year, and since March the general trend has been down, with the exception of a couple of months, he said. He attributed that progress primarily to a campaign to increase the involvement of Army leaders at all ranks in suicide prevention efforts.

Chiarelli voiced frustration that the Army has not yet been able to identify any causal links among the suicide cases, except that soldiers are more likely to kill themselves when they are away from their stations, where help is available. "There is no simple answer," he said. "Each suicide case is as unique as the individuals themselves."

But Chiarelli said that in more than 40 percent of the cases this year, the soldier involved had seen a behavioral health specialist.

Substance abuse, which can be related to mental health problems and suicide, is on the rise in the Army, Chiarelli said, and he added that the force is short about 300 substance abuse counselors.

The Army is also short an estimated 800 behavioral health specialists, he said, describing prewar authorization levels for such specialists as outdated. "I have been pounding the system to . . . determine what we need after eight years of war," Chiarelli said.

The Army recently refined the questionnaire it uses for incoming soldiers to better screen for psychological problems and has instituted a training program to build mental resiliency within its ranks.

In addition, the Army has launched a pilot program to have soldiers returning from overseas undergo an immediate half-hour evaluation -- either face-to-face or online via Web cameras -- by mental health providers. In the one battalion that has participated in the program so far, the evaluations led to a doubling of the referral rate for mental health issues compared with soldiers who simply filled out a post-deployment assessment form, according to Brig. Gen. Richard Thomas, the Army's assistant surgeon general for force protection.

Chiarelli declined to discuss the case of Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, charged with fatally shooting 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., this month. Asked whether he was concerned about the risk of other violent individuals in the force, Chiarelli said, "We always have to be concerned about that."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy...11/17/AR2009111703426.html?hpid=moreheadlines
 
#2
jumpinjarhead said:
As of Nov. 16, 140 soldiers on active duty and 71 soldiers not on active duty were suspected to have committed suicide.
I wonder how these numbers compare to a similar sized random group?

msr
 
#3
msr said:
jumpinjarhead said:
As of Nov. 16, 140 soldiers on active duty and 71 soldiers not on active duty were suspected to have committed suicide.
I wonder how these numbers compare to a similar sized random group?

msr
The army suicide rate is now higher than that among the general American population. The rate has been calculated as 20.2 per 100,000 soldiers, compared with 19.5 per 100,000 civilians.
 

Biped

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
I would suspect the USA trend in forces/ex-forces numbers is braodly similar to that of the UK. I'm sure someone here knows.
 
#5
jumpinjarhead said:
msr said:
jumpinjarhead said:
As of Nov. 16, 140 soldiers on active duty and 71 soldiers not on active duty were suspected to have committed suicide.
I wonder how these numbers compare to a similar sized random group?
The army suicide rate is now higher than that among the general American population. The rate has been calculated as 20.2 per 100,000 soldiers, compared with 19.5 per 100,000 civilians.
So actually, when you consider what people have to put up with, an increase in risk of just over 3.5% is not huge. I'm not saying it is acceptable - I would have expected the difference to be higher?
 
#6
Idrach said:
jumpinjarhead said:
msr said:
jumpinjarhead said:
As of Nov. 16, 140 soldiers on active duty and 71 soldiers not on active duty were suspected to have committed suicide.
I wonder how these numbers compare to a similar sized random group?
The army suicide rate is now higher than that among the general American population. The rate has been calculated as 20.2 per 100,000 soldiers, compared with 19.5 per 100,000 civilians.
So actually, when you consider what people have to put up with, an increase in risk of just over 3.5% is not huge. I'm not saying it is acceptable - I would have expected the difference to be higher?
Not my field of expertise so I can't say--it may be that the Army rate now is dramatically higher than it has been previously rather than in comparison to civilians. It also could be that the Army population rate has traditionally been lower than civilians due to overall better physical fitness etc.
 
#7
To my Yank friends, this is not meant to be disrespectful, but...as this timing coincides with your new president, and his apparently far-left, almost anti-US attitudes, are some of these poor soldiers filled with despair?

I gather his seemingly anti-military attitude is taking a tool.

Your thoughts?
 
#8
I was thinking about this sort of thing the other day, in the light of Fort Hood.

And, not to slag you off JJ- as I am more than happy to do usually(!), but seriously why is there more suicide and fratricide in the US forces compared with British forces.

And realising I have no figures what so ever, what are the figures on British Army suicide?
 
#10
According to DASA, the UK Army rate for 2006 - 2008 is 12 per 100,000. Website lists actual numbers of Coroners Open or Suicide verdicts.

According to WHO, the overall UK rate for all males is 10.4 per 100,000 (2005). The rates for young men are always higher than that for all males, but I can't find a good demographic comparator.

(Edited to add the whole population stats).
 
#11
kabulronin said:
I was thinking about this sort of thing the other day, in the light of Fort Hood.

And, not to slag you off JJ- as I am more than happy to do usually(!), but seriously why is there more suicide and fratricide in the US forces compared with British forces.

And realising I have no figures what so ever, what are the figures on British Army suicide?
Kabulronin

Many Brits jump to conclusions about the Yanks being Fratricide-happy, shooting anything that gets in their sights...however, we have the same problem...perhaps we just hide it, as it would make us look bad when we bash the Yanks. CPL Budd died as a result of "friendly fire." He is not alone, over the past 6 years. There have been several others...maybe we just hide it better?
 
#12
kabulronin said:
I was thinking about this sort of thing the other day, in the light of Fort Hood.

And, not to slag you off JJ- as I am more than happy to do usually(!), but seriously why is there more suicide and fratricide in the US forces compared with British forces.

And realising I have no figures what so ever, what are the figures on British Army suicide?
Don't know about the fratricide but the suicides may well be connected with longer tours with no real end in sight. That's a great destroyer of men and their families.

The last century's wars may have been bloodier but were mostly shorter.

RIP.
 
#13
RedCoat2009 said:
kabulronin said:
I was thinking about this sort of thing the other day, in the light of Fort Hood.

And, not to slag you off JJ- as I am more than happy to do usually(!), but seriously why is there more suicide and fratricide in the US forces compared with British forces.

And realising I have no figures what so ever, what are the figures on British Army suicide?
Kabulronin

Many Brits jump to conclusions about the Yanks being Fratricide-happy, shooting anything that gets in their sights...however, we have the same problem...perhaps we just hide it, as it would make us look bad when we bash the Yanks. CPL Budd died as a result of "friendly fire." He is not alone, over the past 6 years. There have been several others...maybe we just hide it better?
RedCoat, I didn't realise that BB died as a result of FF- and a shame to hear that- but I think there is a difference between "blue on blue"- an accident, and fratricide- a deliberate act of murder. And no I don't think they are "fratricide happy" any more than I subscribe to the sweeping conclusion that all Vietnam veterans are socially malajusted psychos a la Rambo.

But I do think, based on following the news that there is more of it (even taking it perhead) in US forces than British forces.
 
#14
alib said:
kabulronin said:
I was thinking about this sort of thing the other day, in the light of Fort Hood.

And, not to slag you off JJ- as I am more than happy to do usually(!), but seriously why is there more suicide and fratricide in the US forces compared with British forces.

And realising I have no figures what so ever, what are the figures on British Army suicide?
Don't know about the fratricide but the suicides may well be connected with longer tours with no real end in sight. That's a great destroyer of men and their families.

The last centuries wars may have been bloodier but were mostly shorter.

RIP.
Alib, I think you may have a point and length of tour may well have something to do with it.
 
#15
Apparently they don't need to top themselves. They just queue up for jabs in the med centre.....
 
#16
RedCoat2009 said:
To my Yank friends, this is not meant to be disrespectful, but...as this timing coincides with your new president, and his apparently far-left, almost anti-US attitudes, are some of these poor soldiers filled with despair?

I gather his seemingly anti-military attitude is taking a tool.

Your thoughts?
There have been some suggestions of that in some news reports and anecdotally I have heard there is concern. I am unaware of any empirical data as yet. I imagine things are somewhat like when James Earl Carter was in office, although we were not in a shooting war at the time. I can vividly and unpleasantly recall having to continually remind ourselves that our allegiance was to the Constitution and to the office of the Commander in Chief. It is difficult for military people in any event if they do not have respect for the person as well.

To be fair, there were some no doubt who felt that way about the ever evil GW Bush but in general his more visible support and respect for the military garnered the same in the forces. Before the Bush haters start, I know about his Air Guard service etc. as did most of our military. Regardless of that, it was how he conducted himself after 9/11 in terms of national defense that caused many serving and former military to have a generally positive view of him.
 
#17
kabulronin said:
alib said:
kabulronin said:
I was thinking about this sort of thing the other day, in the light of Fort Hood.

And, not to slag you off JJ- as I am more than happy to do usually(!), but seriously why is there more suicide and fratricide in the US forces compared with British forces.

And realising I have no figures what so ever, what are the figures on British Army suicide?
Don't know about the fratricide but the suicides may well be connected with longer tours with no real end in sight. That's a great destroyer of men and their families.

The last centuries wars may have been bloodier but were mostly shorter.

RIP.
Alib, I think you may have a point and length of tour may well have something to do with it.
Good questions and I hope those with the responsibility to deal with the suicide thing do all they can to mitigate it. My contacts with those serving clearly reflect a great deal of stress (especially on families) from the op-tempo. As I have said elsewhere, our military may be a good bit larger than the UK's but it is still showing the ill effects of the repeated tours. Many USMC infantry units are literally in a constant rotation-either getting ready to go, going, or refitting and reconstituting on return to start the prep phase all over again. While this is great for seasoning the force and will pay dividends over time in terms of wide and deep combat experience, it is at great personal and familial cost.
 
#18
jumpinjarhead said:
RedCoat2009 said:
To my Yank friends, this is not meant to be disrespectful, but...as this timing coincides with your new president, and his apparently far-left, almost anti-US attitudes, are some of these poor soldiers filled with despair?

I gather his seemingly anti-military attitude is taking a tool.

Your thoughts?
There have been some suggestions of that in some news reports and anecdotally I have heard there is concern. I am unaware of any empirical data as yet. I imagine things are somewhat like when James Earl Carter was in office, although we were not in a shooting war at the time. I can vividly and unpleasantly recall having to continually remind ourselves that our allegiance was to the Constitution and to the office of the Commander in Chief. It is difficult for military people in any event if they do not have respect for the person as well.

To be fair, there were some no doubt who felt that way about the ever evil GW Bush but in general his more visible support and respect for the military garnered the same in the forces. Before the Bush haters start, I know about his Air Guard service etc. as did most of our military. Regardless of that, it was how he conducted himself after 9/11 in terms of national defense that caused many serving and former military to have a generally positive view of him.
I agree, he was heavily slandered in the press, world-wide...so, he must be a much better man than portrayed in the leftist press.

I met a Yank who told me, in the 1970s, under Carter, the military did not get a pay raise one year, maybe 1979, and in the next election, he got very little military vote.

Is he really considered your worst president?
 
#19
RedCoat2009 said:
Is he really considered your worst president?
That depends on who you ask. Personally I think so--at least in terms of my lifetime. I also recall getting transferred and since housing was unavailable at my new station, we had to buy a house and the mortgage interest rate was 21%!
 
#20
kabulronin said:
RedCoat2009 said:
kabulronin said:
I was thinking about this sort of thing the other day, in the light of Fort Hood.

And, not to slag you off JJ- as I am more than happy to do usually(!), but seriously why is there more suicide and fratricide in the US forces compared with British forces.

And realising I have no figures what so ever, what are the figures on British Army suicide?
Kabulronin

Many Brits jump to conclusions about the Yanks being Fratricide-happy, shooting anything that gets in their sights...however, we have the same problem...perhaps we just hide it, as it would make us look bad when we bash the Yanks. CPL Budd died as a result of "friendly fire." He is not alone, over the past 6 years. There have been several others...maybe we just hide it better?
RedCoat, I didn't realise that BB died as a result of FF- and a shame to hear that- but I think there is a difference between "blue on blue"- an accident, and fratricide- a deliberate act of murder. And no I don't think they are "fratricide happy" any more than I subscribe to the sweeping conclusion that all Vietnam veterans are socially malajusted psychos a la Rambo.

But I do think, based on following the news that there is more of it (even taking it perhead) in US forces than British forces.

Maybe not?

Suicide claiming more British Falkland veterans than fighting did
Mary Helen Spooner
West Sussex, UK

Military veterans who say they were not adequately treated for post-traumatic stress disorder have filed suit against the British Ministry of Defence. The case involves more than 250 former combatants who were involved in the Falklands war, policing Northern Ireland, the civil war in Bosnia, the Gulf war and other conflicts. Another 1600 veterans are considering similar action.

The High Court proceedings, which began Mar. 4 and are expected to last 5 months, focus on the experiences of 15 veterans. Lawyer Stephen Irwin accuses the ministry not only of failing to provide treatment but also of not properly preparing the soldiers for combat. He also says the ministry suffers from a "macho culture" regarding psychiatric illness.

One case cited involves a young seaman who has been haunted by the smell of burning flesh since he watched his best friend burn to death on a ship during the 1982 Falklands war with Argentina. According to the South Atlantic Medal Association, which represents these soldiers, 256 British soldiers were killed during that conflict, and since then 264 veterans have committed suicide.

Suicide rates among British veterans of the Gulf War are also high, according to Larry Cammock of the Gulf Veterans Association, with 93 of these deaths occurring in the decade since the conflict ended. Cammock said many veterans have had a hard time obtaining adequate psychiatric care once they leave military service and that civilian health care professionals have trouble comprehending combat conditions.

One of the witnesses, Major-General Robin Short, planned the country's medical deployment during the Gulf war in 1991. He says he tried to raise the issue of post-traumatic stress to his superiors, but received no support. British soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan will likely experience similar effects, he adds.

The defence ministry refused to comment on the case, and war veterans involved in the suit have been told not to make public statements. However, a ministry spokesman told the BBC that it recognized that some personnel have suffered because of traumatic experiences. He said that the department has a duty to ensure that such veterans received proper treatment, and if they do not they "may be entitled to compensation."

http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/166/11/1453-a
 

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