Jun 12, 2009
BAGHDAD, Iraq (Army News Service, June 12, 2009) – As the number of Soldiers committing suicide continues to rise, the Army’s suicide prevention campaign shifts its focus to junior leaders in an effort to arm them with the tools they need to help their Soldiers before a problem reaches a tragic end.
A recent Army study shows that 60 percent of suicides are carried out by first time deployers. That percentage may be hard to believe as news agencies continue to report on how the Army is stretched thin and Soldiers are on their second, third or fourth tours here. “Soldiers who have deployed before have been able to build resiliency, and they are able to adapt to situations because they have been placed in similar ones before,” said Chaplain (Col.) Kenneth Stice, Multi-National Corps-Iraq command chaplain. “First time deployers need to build that same resiliency, and that is hard to do.” The MNC-I Suicide Prevention Action Plan, December 2008, puts Chaplains in theater at the forefront of unit-level suicide prevention training. Stice and his religious support team are ready to take the lead, providing an outlet for Soldiers to come to if they need help, as well as provide additional suicide prevention training to units. “We have a tremendous Chaplain corps that has done significant work in helping to combat (the suicide) trend,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. James Hunt, MNC-I Deputy Commanding General. Hunt explained that Chaplains are not alone in their efforts to combat suicides, as behavioral health programs and systems already in place offer options to Servicemembers, such as Rest and Restoration Centers and combat stress clinics throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. The first step is to educate Soldiers on suicide prevention in three phases. Phase I is the Army’s “Stand Down” video, and is usually shown at a Soldier’s home station prior to deploying. Phase II, which is currently being conducted in theater, is the “Shoulder-to-Shoulder: No Soldier Stands Alone” video, followed by a discussion where Soldiers are able to share their personal experiences, discuss the causes of suicide and ways they can help their fellow Soldiers. “The video is very transparent, very candid and the goal of it is to reduce the stigma of seeking help, because the cost of suicide hurts families and units alike,” Stice said. Phase III is annual training that reiterates lessons from the previous two phases.