Brig. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, according to CNN, has “in effect ordered his soldiers Wednesday not to commit suicide” in the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell. Why?
After nearly one soldier per week committed suicide at the post between January and mid-March, the Army instituted a suicide prevention program that “seemed to be having good effects” until last week, when two more suicides occurred, he said.
Yes, these are not positive numbers and the Army needs to do more to combat the stigma of seeking help for a psychological concern such as depression. They can begin by promising soldiers that such treatment seeking will have no negative effect on their ability to move up in the Army and get promoted in the future. You wouldn’t hold someone from getting a promotion if they suffered a bullet wound while in combat, so why would you discriminate based upon a mental disorder?
Dr. Mark Kaplan, a professor of community health at Portland State University in Oregon, is skeptical of the latest attempt by the Army to solve this problem, as he told CNN:
“It sounds like an order,” he told CNN in a telephone interview. “I’m not sure that a command like this is going to alter the course of somebody who is on a trajectory of self-harm.”
He suggested the Army might want to adopt the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs model.
“They’re dealing with a comparable problem with a similar population,” Kaplan said. “They have infused more sensitivity to their approach to suicide prevention as opposed to this. This is like any other order.”
I’d have to agree. The V.A. model is better (although perhaps still not ideal), and definitely one to try and replicate throughout the U.S. armed services. Suicide prevention is a process that must, despite the military environment, include sensitivity and awareness that it is a sign of serious, undiagnosed depression. Once the military starts treating mental disorders such as depression like other health concerns that they neither discriminate against nor stigmatize, I think they’ll find far more success than their current, broken and haphazard methods.
Read the full story: ‘Tell somebody,’ if you’re thinking of suicide, says general
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 May 2009
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Grohol, J. (2009). Soldiers Ordered Not to Kill Themselves. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/05/28/soldiers-ordered-not-to-kill-themselves/