Associated Press, April 24, 2009
Army trying to stem increase in soldiers’ suicides
But there also have been a number of cases in which troops who were high-performers with no apparent problems inexplicably killed themselves, leaving few clues as to why.
By Pauline Jelinek
The Army has approved new guidance to military commanders in an effort to stem the rising toll of soldier suicides, officials said late Thursday.
Suicides among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are reaching epidemic proportions. More than 6,000 veterans took their lives in 2005 alone, according to a study by CBS News. By some estimates, veterans are attempting suicide 1,000 times a month.
ANP, Jul. 30, 2008
The plan includes hiring more mental health workers and tightening the way officials handle drug testing, health screening and a host of other long-standing procedures that in some cases became lax, according to officials, as the Army focused on fighting two wars.
Army leadership has become more alarmed as suicides from January through March rose to a reported 56 -- 22 confirmed and 34 still being investigated and pending confirmation. Usually, the vast majority of suspected suicides are eventually confirmed. The 2009 number compares to 140 for all of last year, a record blamed partly on strains caused by repeated deployments for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The plan was approved by Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli after he visited a half-dozen American military bases and talked to commanders and staff who care for soldiers and their families.
Chiarelli also has instituted regular conference calls with commanders around the globe — hours-long sessions in which each commander reports on suicides in his region and officials examine each case to learn how they might prevent more.
The group has examined cases in which it was clear that soldiers were troubled -- that is, they failed to succeed in alcohol abuse programs or were increasingly showing signs of problems in their work or personal lives. But there also have been a number of cases in which troops who were high-performers with no apparent problems inexplicably killed themselves, leaving few clues as to why.
Officials didn't release details of the plan Thursday.
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