The US Army released a 350 page report seeking to understand the increasing rates of suicides among military personnel. Entitled “Health Promotion Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention,” this comprehensive report is the most serious effort yet to understand the disturbing trends that are affecting the mental well-being of men and women in uniform.
The report contains a sobering introduction from General Peter Chiarelli, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, who reports that there were 160 active duty suicides in fiscal 2009 (239 across the total Army including Reserve components). In addition, there were 146 deaths attributed to “high-risk” behavior and 1,713 attempted suicides.
I echo General Chiarelli’s point: “These are not just statistics, they are our Soldiers.”
Among the factors cited in the report that may have contributed to these deaths and high-risk behavior are the following:
- the rigors of service,
- repeated deployments,
- injuries and separation from Family which contribute to:
- a sense of isolation
- life fatigue
In conclusion, General Chiarelli states that “. . . we must now face the unintended consequences of leading an expeditionary Army than included involuntary enlistment extensions, accelerated promotions, extended deployment rotations, reduced dwell time and potentially diverted focus from leading and caring for soldiers in the post, camp and station environment. While most have remained resilient through these challenges, others have been pushed to their breaking point.”
Indeed, the “unintended consequences” maybe the most unfortunate outcome of this war in Afghanistan. We are pleased to see the US Army coming to grips which this serious and debilitating problem for the men and women in uniform and their families.
Richard W. MayShare