By Amaani Lyle
WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2014 – The Defense Department released the quarterly suicide report for April through June of 2014, and the numbers, officials said, indicate a drop from first-quarter statistics for all services and components.
The second-quarter report summary showed 70 suicides among active duty service members, 14 suicides among Reserve component service members and 20 suicides among National Guardsmen.
In an off-camera briefing, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren reported comparison first quarter statistics of 74 active duty members, 24 Reservists and 22 National Guardsmen.
Possible Reasons for Decline in Suicides
Jacqueline Garrick, acting director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, said the decline could be attributable to the Defense Department’s vigilant efforts to better understand and identify at-risk service members and veterans, greater collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and increased peer-to-peer, online and telephone counseling resources.
“We’ve brought on qualified responders from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, many who have served in the military themselves and who understand that way of life,” Garrick said, “and we’re evaluating training to develop core competencies for peer, command, clinical and pastoral requirements.”
Still, Garrick noted fear of career damage remains one of the major obstacles between veterans in crisis and the path to treatment and counseling.
“The goal is to eliminate the stigma of getting help,” she said. “So there’s been an increase in first-level, peer-to-peer groups, which have made a difference in enabling people who fear they may be jeopardizing their career to reach out for care.”
Other resources, Garrick said, include a 24-hour, 365-day-a-year crisis line, online chat, and text-messaging service for veterans and service members of all statuses.
“This is free, confidential support for people who are having trouble, but also for people who want to help someone they see struggling,” she said.
Garrick noted that DoD and VA recognize the need to help transitioning service members, as some 250,000 separate or medically retire from the military each year.
“We’re developing a resiliency module for veterans training,” Garrick said. “We want to make sure when you see resources such as Military Crisis Line, Veterans Crisis Line and all that branding is the same, you begin to recognize that’s for you no matter what status you’re in.”
Suicide Factors, Overall Statistics
As the drawdown continues in Afghanistan, Garrick noted that while post-traumatic stress disorder is a common reaction to the rigors of deployments, recent wars are less relevant to current statistics than many realize.
“Just over half of service members who’ve attempted or died as a result of suicide have been deployed and less than 15 percent of that number had been in actual combat,” she said. “Far more common reasons for suicide are financial problems, relationship issues, depression or abuse.”
In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control listed suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. That year, there were 38,364 suicides — an average of 105 each day.
Garrick asserts that seeking help is a sign of strength, treatment works, and myriad resources remain available to current and former service members and their families.
“The problems that go unresolved only get worse and we know those have greater impacts on your life, your career, on your family,” she said. “So we would encourage anybody to intervene and act early – that’s the notion behind the power of one: everybody has the power to save a life.”
(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDODNews)
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