By Mark Abramson, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, May 9, 2009
The Army reported that its suicide numbers for April decreased in its active-duty ranks compared with last year’s numbers.
There was one confirmed active-duty suicide in April and six potential suicides that are under investigation, compared with 12 suicides in April 2008, an Army press release said. This April’s numbers also are down slightly from the previous month when there were three confirmed suicides and another 10 deaths under investigation.
Overall, the Army reported 35 confirmed suicides so far in 2009 while another 29 deaths are being investigated as potential suicides.
There have also been 12 confirmed suicides and 15 potential suicides so far this year in the Army Reserve’s non-active-duty ranks, the Army reported. During the same period in 2008, 21 non-active-duty reservists committed suicide.
Overall last year, there were 140 confirmed suicides and there are another seven probable suicides still under investigation, the Army said. That’s up from 115 in 2007, and 101 in 2006.
The Army has responded by launching a five-year, $50 million study with the National Institute of Mental Health.
Army mental health experts said they have noticed a difference in how the service is addressing suicide prevention. One of those changes is with an interactive video called “Beyond the Front.”
“I found the interaction to be fantastic,” said Brian Olden, deputy chief of behavioral health services for Bavarian Medical Activity at Vilseck, Germany. “It wasn’t the usual kind of cheesy Army video and everyone falls asleep. I think it has been very effective.”
The Army is also addressing suicides with a program called the Army Campaign Plan for Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention, focusing on boosting the mental, spiritual and physical health of soldiers and their families. That campaign is being headed by the Army vice chief of staff, Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli.