By Tim Poch, WTC STRATCOM
Approximately 450 Soldiers died between fiscal years 2006 and 2009, not at the hands of Al-Qaida or the Taliban, not as a result of a training exercise or traffic accidents, not from cancer or any other medical condition.
What has invaded our Army? Who is this unseen enemy? Who is taking the lives of our finest young men and women? The answer to those questions can be found in one word, a word that the Army states accounts for roughly 43 percent of non-combat Soldier deaths, suicide.
The above figures are from the 2010 Army Health Promotion Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention report. Even more alarming than these numbers is the fact that the rate doubled beginning with 82 suicides in 2006 and ending with 160 in 2009.
From January to June 2010, the Army had 145 active duty suicides which is more than occurred during the same time period last year, according to Tony Arcuri, Well-being Plans and Operations Division Chief, Headquarters Army Materiel Command, G-1, unfortunate proof that the suicide rate is not decreasing.
In a recent Atlanta Journal article, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff, Army said, “these are not just statistics; they are our Soldiers and civilians.”
According to a recent article in an Army publication, reducing the incidence of suicide within the Army requires a holistic approach to improving the physical, mental and spiritual health of our Soldiers, Families and civilians. Focusing on the resiliency and positive life coping skills of our Army family will not only lower suicide rates, but will enhance the quality of life for our entire Army community.
One of the ways the Army is addressing this holistic approach is through The U.S. Army Public Health Commands behavioral health team which developed a program called “Ask, Care and Escort” or ACE. This new program provides Soldiers with the awareness, knowledge and skills necessary to intervene with those at risk. Some aspects of the four-hour training program include awareness, warning signs, risk factors and intervention skills development.
The point of the program is simply this – get involved, ask the tough questions, observe behavior and get your battle buddy help by escorting them to a professional. Ask, Care, Escort. It’s something we all need to do.
At the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) we take suicide prevention seriously. To help strengthen the Army’s suicide prevention initiatives, WTC developed a more comprehensive risk assessment, strengthened Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) cadre training to include suicide prevention and safety, added more AW2 Advocates, and developed a 6-part transition process for wounded Soldiers. Together, along with the other Army programs aimed at combating suicide, the WTC is taking the right steps–steps that will help save lives.
This month is Suicide Prevention Month and as I take another look at the ACE program I faced a realization. Have you noticed the middle letter of the acronym? The middle word and the center of the program’s tag line is CARE.
Caring is the heartbeat of suicide prevention. Get involved. Caring for your battle buddy, family member or spouse should be our number one priority and it’s one that I take seriously and I hope you do too.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for immediate assistance.
Also please take a moment to read more about U.S. Army Suicide Prevention.