US Armys record suicide rate horrible, says Vice CofS

Discussion in 'US' started by jumpinjarhead, Nov 18, 2009.

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  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an estimated 800 behavioral health specialists, he said, describing prewar authorization levels for such specialists as outdated.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."
  2. msr

    msr LE

    I wonder how these numbers compare to a similar sized random group?

  3. 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.
  4. Biped

    Biped LE Book Reviewer

    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. 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. 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, 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?
  9. A sad report which raised more questions than the number it answers.
  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

    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. 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.

  13. 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, 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.....