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Preventing Suicides

Preventing Suicides in the Military

Soldiers on the hill

Research by the U.S. Army and the National Institute of Mental Health aims to reduce suicides among America's military and military veterans.

"The suicide rate among soldiers began to rise significantly in 2002, and reached record levels by 2007," says Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) director. "The Army has been very proactive in addressing the crisis but, sadly, the suicide rate continues to rise."

In addition to the Army's attempts to reduce the suicide rate and address mental health issues, Dr. Insel notes that in 2008 the Army and the NIMH initiated the Study to Assess Risk and Resilience of Service Members (Army STARRS) to better understand the phenomenon. It is the largest study of its kind ever undertaken.

In addition to suicide, this study is targeting depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unlike typical research studies, which can take years, Dr. Insel says that data from Army STARRS will be reported at regular intervals throughout the five-year study period. The information will be used to tailor interventions so that the suicide rate drops and soldiers get the help they need as quickly as possible.

"No question. 2009 was a painful year for the Army when it came to suicides," says Col. Christopher Philbrick, deputy director of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "We took wide-ranging measures to confront the problem, from servicewide prevention and teaching programs to the Army STARRS initiative with the National Institute of Mental Health."

In 2010, the Army plans to update its suicide prevention training and improve procedures to ensure that soldiers and their families receive the support they need when undergoing key transitions, such as moving to another duty station or separating from the Army.

"This will give us the data we need to better adjust and expand our programs so that we save more lives," adds Philbrick.

Fast Facts

  • America's war veterans are at high risk of suicide. The suicide rate among our active military now surpasses that of the general population. Military suicides have risen to record levels for four straight years.
  • Rising rates can be linked to a number of factors, including multiple redeployments, combat injuries, extreme stress on marriage and family relationships, and reluctance of service members to seek treatment.
  • There were 160 reported active-duty Army suicides during 2009, up from 140 suicides in 2008.
  • For 2009, there were 78 confirmed suicides among Army Reserve soldiers not on active duty, up from 57 such deaths in 2008.
  • Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death among all Americans.

To Find Out More

Members of the military, veterans, and their families should contact any of the following military support resources if warning signs of suicide are present:

  • Military OneSource Crisis Intervention Line
  • The Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE)
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline –
    1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Army G-1, Army Well Being Liaison Office
  • Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline
Read More "Preventing Suicides" Articles

Preventing Suicides in the Military / Who's at Risk? / Young People and Suicide—the College Scene

Winter 2010 Issue: Volume 5 Number 1 Page 5 - 6