By Karen O’Connor:
While waiting for my plane in the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky I picked up a copy of USA Today and was startled by a headline that indicated that Army suicides are on the rise.
According to reporter Gregg Zoroya, “Soldiers killed themselves at a rate faster than one per day in July, the Army announced Thursday. There were 38 deaths either confirmed or suspected as suicides, the highest one-month tally in recent Army history, the service said.”
Suicides now claim more soldiers than death in combat or vehicle accidents. In the past, younger soldiers were more vulnerable but that pattern seems to be changing. Veterans are now taking their own lives. What can be done to reverse this terrible trend?
Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff, stated that the answer, in part, lies with other soldiers who can make a difference by reaching out to help a troubled friend. When peers begin seeing the problem in one another and step forward to talk to those in danger, things can change for the better.
According to a report from Robert Burns, AP National Security Writer, in an article for a Fox News station, “Suicide is the toughest enemy I have faced in my 37 years in the Army,” said Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the Army’s vice chief of staff, who is spearheading his service’s efforts to find ways to halt the surge in suicides.
“That said, I do believe suicide is preventable,” Austin added. “To combat it effectively will require sophisticated solutions aimed at helping individuals to build resiliency and strengthen their life coping skills.”
One faith-based organization, Followme.org, as quoted on redOrbit.com, provides resources for families facing the threat of military suicide. “We at followme.org were shocked and dismayed to discover the extent of the suicide epidemic in our nation’s military. We extend our thoughts and prayers to those affected by the military’s most seditious enemy, suicide. But these statistics are not just the military’s problem, to be addressed by military experts and military psychiatrists.
“Rather, churches, community organizations, and non-profits need to proactively respond to the epidemic of suicide in our nation’s military. We, the members of these soldiers’ communities, need to be ready to reach out to soldiers returning from war, aware of the multifaceted enemies they may be facing—whether spiritually, emotionally, or psychologically.
“Followme.org believes that churches and community organizations cannot afford to be left out of the equation for healing our nation’s warriors, and we stand with our valiant soldiers.”
If you or someone you know in uniform has shared thoughts of suicide, encourage him or her to talk to you about it and to call the Military suicide hotline: 800-273-8255 for professional help so that army suicides now on the rise will turn in the other direction.
Check out this excellent YouTube video on how to help prevent military suicides.