Uncertainty About Military Suicides Frustrates Services

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2009 – The most frustrating part about suicide prevention is the uncertainty about what causes troops to take their lives, top military leaders said here yesterday.   This near-unanimous chorus was sounded on Capitol Hill when the second-ranking military officers of each service testified about military mental health before the House Armed Services Committee.   “The most frustrating thing is trying to find a cause,” said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff.   The Army last week launched a study group comprising the military, National Institute of Mental Health, academia and other members in hopes of better understanding the underlying causes of suicide.   The largest study of behavioral health ever undertaken by the Army will examine behavioral health, psychological resilience, suicide risk, suicide-related behaviors and suicide deaths across the active and reserve components over all phases of a soldier’s career, Chiarelli said.   The $50 million study will present findings quarterly, with preliminary results due in November. Chiarelli said the findings could be incorporated in real time into treatment programs. The Army had a record number of suicides in 2007 with 115, and again in 2008 with 139.   “[The study group] realizes this is not business as usual. We’re not going to wait for the final results of the study,” the general said, referring to the project’s five-year timeline. “We feel that this could be huge — huge for the Army, the Department of Defense and quite frankly, for America.”



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