The rate of suicides among soldiers is of the utmost concern and has major effects on units as well as families, Army Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Thomas R. Lamont said Monday at the annual meeting and exposition of the Association of the United States Army.
So far this year, Lamont said, suicide has taken the lives of 150 active duty soldiers, 105 other soldiers, six family members, and 17 DoD civilians.
“We must get rid of the perceived stigma of asking for help and foster a culture of respect and care,” Lamont said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said the Army must develop a culture in which soldiers feel comfortable coming forward to seek help without fear of the consequences. He said the recent action of Army Command Sgt Major Ramond F. Chandler in going public about his own case of PTSD was a helpful step.
It is difficult to generalize about suicide, Odierno said, noting that some individuals can cope with more stress than others before reaching their breaking point. Suicide is very complex, he added, noting that “about 50 percent of those who commit suicide in the Army have not deployed. So it’s not about deployment totally.”
Odierno said among the things the Army is doing to combat PTSD and suicide is its ongoing Ready and Resilient Campaign to teach coping mechanisms to soldiers, families, and civilian employees. Another is promoting intervention by family members when they see certain warning signs.He added that the Army does a thorough after-action study of every suicide, collecting every bit of information. The Army vice chief of staff “goes through everything that might have happened” in case he discovers something the Army needs to change.