By John Simerman
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 05/07/2009 06:02:16 PM PDT
Updated: 05/08/2009 05:44:09 AM PDT
Suicides by active-duty soldiers continued an alarming rise during the first four months of the year, although they fell off in April after a service-wide push to identify soldiers on the brink, the Army reported Thursday.
Through April, the Army reported 64 confirmed or potential active-duty suicides, compared with 39 confirmed suicides in the same period last year. The 129 confirmed suicides for all of 2008 marked a record high since the Army started tracking them in 1980.
Army brass in January acknowledged they were losing a battle to understand and reverse a steep four-year rise in soldier suicides that for the first time last year eclipsed the adjusted national suicide rate of 19.5 people per 100,000. They announced several measures, including a monthlong “stand-down” aimed at reaching every soldier with training designed to shake the stigma of reporting mental health trouble to superiors.
The Army also has added hundreds of psychiatrists, psychologists and family therapists and launched an ambitious five-year, $50 million study with the National Institute of Mental Health — the largest suicide study by the military in its history.