The Army’s suicide rate is now running parallel to the civilian rate among comparably aged individuals.
Lt. Gen.Eric Schoomaker, Army surgeon general, said that although the civilian rate is collected from two-year-old data the numbers in the Army were deeply troubling.
In the past, the suicide rate in the Army was about half that of the civilian sector.
“There is no single factor that we can put our finger on” to identify why the number of suicides have shot upwards.
He added, “One transcendent factor is fractured relationships,” failing marriages, boyfriends and girlfriends splitting up and even the Army itself say when a soldier is reprimanded with an Article 15.
He said the service’s first goal when a soldier is separating from active duty or is demobilizing is to conduct a physical and mental health assessment on “how the soldier is doing” and what course of action, if any, should be taken.
Thomas Lamont, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, told the Senate Armed Service’s Personnel Subcommittee, that suicide prevention is “truly one of the highest priorities we have.”
The Army’s recently unveiled Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program was one way of addressing that priority by building resiliency in soldiers and family members, he said.
Adding, “There’s nothing more important than dwell time that will let them decompress.”
For guardsmen and reservists, Schoomaker added the process is more complicated because many do “not have access to care even through TRICARE.
Schoomaker told the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee that while the TRICARE Reserve select benefit has been extended many soldiers in the reserve components do not take advantage of it.”
Lamont seconded that assessment.