FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 25, 2014) -- Recent events that have made national headlines such as the death of the entertainer Robin Williams and the Fort Lee Soldier who shot herself in the CASCOM headquarters building, have again shone a spotlight on the problem of suicide. Combined with the Army-wide statistic for self-inflicted fatalities, it paints a grim picture.
In 2013, 301 Soldiers in the total Army (active, National Guard and Reserve) took their own lives. While this was a decrease from the 325 deaths by suicide in 2012, it was hardly a cause for celebration.
The suicide rates for the military, and for the Army in particular, began increasing to record levels every year since 2005, with 2012 being the peak year. According to a report from the Pentagon, the rate for full-time Soldiers during 2012 rose to 29.7 deaths per 100,000 (22.7 per 100,000 for all full-time service members), which was well above the 25.1 per 100,000 rate for civilians from a similar age group in 2010.
By comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the overall national suicide rate was 12.1 per 100,000 in 2010 (though it climbs to 19.9 per 100,000 among men).
Several risk factors make suicide more likely. They include: having depression or severe anxiety; alcohol or substance abuse; having a serious medical condition or pain; experiencing a highly stressful event such as loss of a loved one, financial trouble or trouble with the law; prolonged stress due to relationship conflicts, harassment or bullying, or unemployment; exposure to another person’s suicide or to graphic accounts of a suicide; and access to lethal means during a time of increased risk.
People who die by suicide usually show some indication of immediate risk before attempting to kill themselves.
Recognizing warning signs can help save a life. They include talking about wanting to kill themselves, buying a gun or hoarding medicine, talking about a suicide plan, feeling hopeless, feeling trapped in an intolerable situation, feeling humiliated, losing interest in things, becoming socially isolated, acting irritable or agitated, or showing rage.
If anyone is aware that someone they know is at risk for suicide, it is vital to act immediately.
Remember the acronym ACE – Ask the person if he/she is thinking about suicide (A), Care for that individual by expressing concern about him/her (C), and Escort them to a behavioral health clinic or hospital emergency room for evaluation and intervention (E). Do not leave that person alone!
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, research has found that educating general practitioners about depression and the use of antidepressants, limiting access to lethal means, following up with those who attempt suicide in the weeks and months following the attempt, use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and conducting screening for depression and suicide risk have been shown to reduce suicide rates.
To become more informed about suicide prevention, consider attending an ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) program offered at Fort Lee. The point of contact for that training is U.S. Public Health Service Capt. Kerima Gibbons at (804) 734-9623. The Department of Behavioral Health at Kenner Army Health Clinic at (804) 734-9623 or 734-9143) and Military One Source at 1-800-342-9647 also can provide information.
For those seeking immediate help regarding suicidal thinking, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go the nearest hospital emergency room.
Seeking care for yourself, your loved ones or your battle buddies is a sign of strength and can save a life!