Tuesday, August 4, 2009

News Roundup: US Military, Chaplains Continue to Grapple With Suicide Problem

Several stories in the last few weeks about the problem of suicide in the US military - suicide rates in the US Army were at record levels in 2007 (115 cases) and in 2008 (139 cases).

The American Forces Press Service announced that US Vice Chiefs of Staff were briefing congressional leaders on "The largest study of behavioral health ever undertaken by the Army [which] 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". All the chiefs identified support for soldiers after deployment as the greatest need. Gen. William M. Fraser III, Air Force vice chief of staff, said “That’s the most frustrating, is when you provide things and still it’s just not enough. And you never really ever know ‘What else could I have done?’” he asked ruefully. “‘What else could we have done to help them to not lose hope in the face of despair and then commit that fateful act?’” Read the whole article here.

Canon Kendall Harmon's wonderful blog Titus One Nine draw attention to this issue.

The first piece, from the New York Times, describes how four members of a US National Guard unit committed suicide after returning from a deployment in Iraq. "The four suicides, in a unit of roughly 175 soldiers, make the company an extreme example of what experts see as an alarming trend in the years since the invasion of Iraq."

Sgt. Jacob Blaylock, seated left, one of four in his Guard unit to commit suicide, at the grave of Sgt. Brandon Wallace. (New York Times photo)

Read the whole piece here.

The second, more hopeful piece by Vicki Brown of the United Methodist Church News Service describes the work that chaplains are doing to support military members who are struggling with suicidal thoughts.

“Chaplains have specialized training and are gatekeepers for the prevention programs,” said Chaplain Lt. Col. Scott Weichl, behavioral health program manager at the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

“Many, many folks come and talk to us. We are not judgmental, and many who have had serious difficulties just need someone to talk to,” added Weichl, who is a United Methodist chaplain. “We try to discern, to triage who needs to see someone with special training and skills.”

Read the whole article here.

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Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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