PDA

View Full Version : Panetta Calls for Leadership on Suicide Prevention



Gina
06-12-2012, 10:32 AM
Link (http://www.defense.gov//News/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=116679)

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, in an internal memo written last month, addressed the issue of military suicides, calling it one of the most complex and urgent problems facing the department, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

In a briefing with reporters, Navy Capt. John Kirby confirmed the accuracy of numbers in news reports indicating that military suicides have risen 18 percent, from 130 in the period from Jan. 1 to June 3, 2011, to 154 in the same period this year.

“We’ve said for many years now how deeply concerned we are about the tragedy of suicides in the military and we recognize that the numbers are going up,” Kirby said.

“If you just compare this year’s numbers … compared to 10 years ago, they’ve doubled,” he added, “and each one is a tragedy.”

Referring to Panetta’s May 10 memo on suicide prevention for Defense Department personnel, Kirby said the secretary makes clear that suicide prevention is, first and foremost, a leadership responsibility.

“To that end,” Panetta wrote, “leaders throughout the chain of command must actively promote a constructive command climate that fosters cohesion and encourages individuals to reach out for help when needed.”

In the memo, he notes that the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness established a Defense Suicide Prevention Office to serve as the focal point for suicide prevention policy, training and programs.
I talked to my son about this last night. He said the only noticeable thing that's being done in his opinion is that instead of a once a year training meeting on suicide prevention, they have two a year now. Pretty bad imo.

The thing is the DOD or even the individual units don't aggressively seek soldiers in trouble, it's on the soldier to ask for help. While in principle that's a good idea, if someone IS in trouble they often don't ask for help, embarrassment and a whole host of other road blocks.

noonwitch
06-12-2012, 01:23 PM
In a job position in which a team is dependent on each member's fitness, I can see where a person who is depressed might not want to admit to having problems. I think cops have a high suicide rate for similar reasons.


I'm not in a military job, nor have I ever worked for the police. But even so, I can name 4 coworkers who have committed suicide in the 25 years that I've been here. I don't think it's such a high number, but my friends and family are surprised that social workers would do such a thing.

Stoic
06-13-2012, 05:13 PM
I have highly relevant personal experience with this, having commanded a US Army infantry company in Iraq. And yes, I did have a soldier commit suicide.

Bottom line reality is, there isn't anything else to do. Yes, we all want to prevent it, but if someone is determined to commit suicide, there is no way to stop them, short of putting them in prison, and that only works IF you can identify them beforehand.


The thing is the DOD or even the individual units don't aggressively seek soldiers in trouble, it's on the soldier to ask for help. While in principle that's a good idea, if someone IS in trouble they often don't ask for help, embarrassment and a whole host of other road blocks.

How do you "aggressively seek soldiers in trouble"? It sounds great, but how do I actually do it? If a soldier's best friends and closest co-workers don't know he's depressed, how will anyone else find out?

This is just another case of military leadership being pushed to control something that is fundamentally uncontrollable. It's not that suicide in the military is rampant; it's just that the military is largely composed of 18-to-20 year old kids. The same age group in the civilian world has a high suicide rate.

Odysseus
06-13-2012, 05:39 PM
I have highly relevant personal experience with this, having commanded a US Army infantry company in Iraq. And yes, I did have a soldier commit suicide.

Bottom line reality is, there isn't anything else to do. Yes, we all want to prevent it, but if someone is determined to commit suicide, there is no way to stop them, short of putting them in prison, and that only works IF you can identify them beforehand.



How do you "aggressively seek soldiers in trouble"? It sounds great, but how do I actually do it? If a soldier's best friends and closest co-workers don't know he's depressed, how will anyone else find out?

This is just another case of military leadership being pushed to control something that is fundamentally uncontrollable. It's not that suicide in the military is rampant; it's just that the military is largely composed of 18-to-20 year old kids. The same age group in the civilian world has a high suicide rate.

Exactly. That's not to say that we don't act on warning signs, but sometimes, there are none to act on. I had a Soldier who had returned to CONUS from Iraq, spoken to me on the Friday that he reported into the MED Hold Company, and then went home on a pass. We spoke for about five minutes, and he was cheerful, funny and gave no sign of depression or anxiety. By Monday, he was dead by his own hand. The result was yet another suicide prevention class.

Gina
06-13-2012, 06:40 PM
If I came off as blaming or expecting the impossible I apologize. My son came home from Iraq with PTSD and I'm scared to death. He's doing well (I think) right now and I speak to him at least every day sometimes a few times a day. Just to check in, just to be available.. I don't know.

He's goes to counselling but you're both right, it's on him to ask for what he needs. He has to go to the appointments etc. He does seem to be okay but I suppose a mother's cross to bear is worry. :smile-new:

I do know that there are those who use this type of thing to discourage war or crap on soldiers and what not. All you can do is all you can do.

Stoic
06-14-2012, 09:24 AM
Gina,

No, I understand you weren't accusing anyone of anything. Your concern is completely justified, coming from the mother of a Soldier. Believe me, one of the hardest things I've ever had to do was call my soldier's mother after it happened. As far as your son goes, you're doing all the right things. Part of it is, he'll just need time.

I just wanted to make the point that preventing suicide isn't an easy--or even necessarily possible--thing to do. My soldier who killed himself surprised everyone, including his best friends. I talked to him just about every day, asked him how he was doing and BSed with him. He was a great kid and a great soldier, who would have made a great NCO. Like Odysseus said, he was friendly, cheerful, and funny, right up until the day it happened. And in the end, other than some vague rumors, no one knew why he'd done it.

It's a damned tragedy.

Gina
06-14-2012, 09:38 AM
Thank you for your encouragement and your service.

You too Ody.

:smile-new:

Odysseus
06-14-2012, 10:05 AM
If I came off as blaming or expecting the impossible I apologize. My son came home from Iraq with PTSD and I'm scared to death. He's doing well (I think) right now and I speak to him at least every day sometimes a few times a day. Just to check in, just to be available.. I don't know.

He's goes to counselling but you're both right, it's on him to ask for what he needs. He has to go to the appointments etc. He does seem to be okay but I suppose a mother's cross to bear is worry. :smile-new:

I do know that there are those who use this type of thing to discourage war or crap on soldiers and what not. All you can do is all you can do.

Stoic and I both understand that you are nothing but supportive. Put it out of your mind. Everybody who comes back from theater has some level of stress, even us REMFs (actually, I think that we get the worst of it, because in the combat arms, there's a lot less petty staff infighting, and kicking in doors has got to be a better stress-reliever than briefing off of slides). The media blows this out of proportion because the narrative that they prefer, Soldiers as victims of war-mongering Republicans (but never Democrats) is a meme that supports their world view. As long as you are there for him, your son will be okay.


Gina,

No, I understand you weren't accusing anyone of anything. Your concern is completely justified, coming from the mother of a Soldier. Believe me, one of the hardest things I've ever had to do was call my soldier's mother after it happened. As far as your son goes, you're doing all the right things. Part of it is, he'll just need time.

I just wanted to make the point that preventing suicide isn't an easy--or even necessarily possible--thing to do. My soldier who killed himself surprised everyone, including his best friends. I talked to him just about every day, asked him how he was doing and BSed with him. He was a great kid and a great soldier, who would have made a great NCO. Like Odysseus said, he was friendly, cheerful, and funny, right up until the day it happened. And in the end, other than some vague rumors, no one knew why he'd done it.

It's a damned tragedy.

It is, and often, it cannot be spotted. The only thing that commanders can do is be there when the troops need to talk, provide them with the support that they need when they have a crisis and, in extreme cases, reduce their access to the means if they are in theater. In CONUS, the last may not be possible, unless the Soldier is in barracks, but otherwise, there's very little that the chain of command can do. These kinds of announcements are basically for public consumption and to show that the leadership is doing something, but it's ultimately a CYA move. A couple of years ago, we had a field grade officer get a DUI while TDY for an exercise, after we'd all read and signed the alcohol policy, so the response was to have everybody read sign it again, because apparently, the officer in question couldn't read it the first time, or didn't think that it applied to him.

Gina
06-14-2012, 10:20 AM
Stoic and I both understand that you are nothing but supportive. Put it out of your mind. Everybody who comes back from theater has some level of stress, even us REMFs (actually, I think that we get the worst of it, because in the combat arms, there's a lot less petty staff infighting, and kicking in doors has got to be a better stress-reliever than briefing off of slides). The media blows this out of proportion because the narrative that they prefer, Soldiers as victims of war-mongering Republicans (but never Democrats) is a meme that supports their world view. As long as you are there for him, your son will be okay.


Yes I've always known that but it tricks me sometimes because it's so close to home. I know he'll be ok in the front of my brain but the back.. well you know.

Thanks again.