To curb suicides in the Army, commanders must pay more attention to junior soldiers and to those who exhibit high-risk behavior, such as drug use or driving under the influence.
During a press conference, the Army's Suicide Prevention Task Force released its report "Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention." Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli discussed the report's findings and recommendations, and also said how commanders can use the report to help keep Soldiers from taking their own lives.
In fiscal year 2009, there were 160 suicides in the Army. Of those, 79 percent were among those who had been deployed only once, or had not deployed at all. Additionally, 60 percent of suicides were among first-term soldiers.
"The most dangerous year to be a soldier is your first year," Chiarelli said. "We see more suicides in that first year than in any other year."
The general said leadership should be focusing on sponsorship programs for "young soldiers coming in the unit, just out of basic, who are trying to make friends, who (are) new to the unit. These are the kinds of lessons you draw from this data that we believe are going to be absolutely essential to us getting a handle on this."
Chiarelli also said that commanders should use information contained in the report to "to help you prioritize your time and who you are going to concentrate on."
Started 15 months ago in response to an increase in suicides in the Army, the more than 300-page report "indicates identifiers of high-risk behavior, reflective of stress and strain on the force. (And) also identifies gaps in policies, processes and procedures pertaining to the surveillance and detection of high-risk and suicidal behavior," the general said.
The report "not only says where we are today and what we have done so far to try to fix it, but it also lays out a way ahead for how we are going to get us back to where we need to be," he added.
The report contains more than 250 recommendations to identify and mitigate problems in the Army related to suicide and high-risk soldier behavior. The report will go forward to a staffing process, and determinations will be made as to which recommendations will be put in place, the general said.