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Military Connection: Chaplains Need Better Training

chaplainBy Debbie Gregory.

The number of suicides in the Army began rising in 2004, peaking at 185 deaths among those on active duty in 2012 , more than double the rate for civilians. Numbers have since declined, but when one suicide is one too many, the current numbers are unacceptable.

In a new study published by RAND, Chaplains who are part of the Army’s first line of defense against suicide say they need more training in how to prevent soldier suicides.

Although the term chaplain originally had Christian roots,, it is generally used today in military organizations to describe all professionals specially trained to serve any spiritual need, regardless of religious affiliation. In addition to offering pastoral care to individuals, and supporting their religious rights and needs, military chaplains may also advise the executive on issues of religion, and ethics, morale and morals as affected by religion

While nearly all chaplains and chaplain assistants have dealt with suicidal soldiers, encouraging them to get help, confidentiality makes them reluctant to alert someone the chain of command. Moreover, many of them admitted that service members who seek help for suicidal thoughts are seen differently by their peers, with half saying they would be embarrassed.

Army spokeswoman Tatjana Christian said that chaplains receive instruction in suicide intervention skills during their basic officer course. But 44% of chaplains and 57% of chaplain assistants said they needed training in suicide prevention treatment.

The Action Alliance, a private-public partnership formed in 2010, noted that the annual U.S. investment of $72 million in suicide research pales by comparison with funding for other diseases that claim a similar number of American lives. Two examples cited by the group include $222 million a year for influenza research, a disease that kills 30,700 annually and $304 million in hypertension studies for an illness that claims 56,000 lives per year.

The Pentagon paid for the RAND study, which is second only to the National Institutes of Health in funding suicide research. The findings were based on a 2012 online survey in which 41% of Army chaplains participated.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Chaplains Need Better Training: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Reducing Military Suicides

Suicide-Prevention-Graphic-2011-v21

By Debbie Gregory

President Barack Obama has signed a bill that aims to reduce suicides among Veterans, active-duty and reserve component troops. The statistics, which have been considered a national tragedy, have been on the rise for more than a decade.

A study released by the Pentagon shows that high-risk soldiers improved with intense behavioral therapy, and had substantially reduced suicide attempts. The study included 152 active-duty soldiers who either had either attempted suicide or were found to be high risk. Those who were given a form of cognitive-behavior therapy did better than their counterparts, who received a more typical form of therapy.

Co-investigator of the study, Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Alan Peterson, professor of psychiatry at the UT Health Science Center’s School of Medicine in San Antonio, and retired Army Col. Carl Castro, research director of USC’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families, agreed that this research is ground breaking. “It is the first-ever suicide prevention intervention showing that a brief treatment protocol can significantly reduce future suicide attempts,” says Castro.

Psychiatric diagnoses have skyrocketed more than 60 % since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began. More than 4,400 troops have killed themselves over the past 11 years, leaving the military plagued by suicides and increasing psychological problems since 9/11. The number of suicides is quickly approaching the number of U.S. troops killed in the long Iraq war, which stands at 4,489.

The 152 soldiers who participated in the study conducted at Fort Carson, CO, were lower-ranking Anglo men, which reflected the Army’s demographic, and were also similar in other categories that ranged from psychiatric diagnoses to the use of medications. The results could be, as Peterson said “the biggest, most important thing that has happened in suicide research in the military, certainly in the last 10 years, and maybe longer than that.”

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Reducing Military Suicides: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Even One More Military Suicide is Unacceptable

Military Suicides

By Debbie Gregory.

The number of suicides among active duty military personnel jumped slightly in 2014. Because every suicide is one suicide too many, each military service branch has been implementing its own prevention program, each with realistic approaches and expectations. These programs seemed to be working, as each branch saw a considerable drop in 2013, from the year before, across active and Reservist/Guard components.

According to Department of Defense data, there were 288 suicides among active duty personnel in 2014. Although this number is higher than the 286 suicides recorded for 2013, it is still a far cry from the 352 confirmed military suicides, a record high, reported in 2012.

For the last several years, all of the service branches have been aggressively generating and retooling their suicide awareness and prevention programs. The emphasis of these programs has been on identifying and reaching out to service members who may be having problems, and encouraging them to come forward if they need help. Each branch has also taken special care to educate and empower everyone, including junior enlisted personnel, to recognize and react to any signs of crisis among their peers. Military leaders have also tried to implement programs for reducing stress, and teaching service members about coping mechanisms and other tools to deal with the various pressures of military life.

This time last year, Pentagon officials were encouraged to see the number of suicides drop by more than 15% from 2012 to 2013. But the same leaders have also cautioned that there will be jumps and drops in this battle.

Among the jumps in this year’s statistics was in the Air Force, increasing from 52 suicides in 2013 to 60 in 2014. The Navy’s statistics also rose from 43 in 2013 to 58 in 2014.

The Marine Corps’ statistics improved, dropping from 45 in 2013 to 35 in 2014. The Army also saw improvement, going from 146 confirmed suicides in 2013, to 135 in 2014.

Again, even one service member suicide is too many. But there is more awareness about this matter than ever before. With continued program development and participation, hopefully we can see the number of military suicides begin to drop significantly, ideally down to zero.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New Suicide Screening: By Debbie Gregory

militay suicide screeningMilitary doctors are looking to reduce the number of suicides among service members with psychiatric conditions by implementing a new screening system that flags those who are at the highest risk of taking their own lives.

Most suicide screenings are questionnaires that are dependent on truthful answers from people who often feel the need to hide their true symptoms and intentions for fear of retribution. The questionnaires also offer little-to-no help in combining factors to predict suicide risk.

Doctors have known for years that mental health patients are at a high risk of suicide in the months after leaving the hospital. Military researchers wanted to know what, if anything, those who did commit suicide had in common. They thought that a great way to proceed would be the pooling of databases of the patient’s military and medical records.

The research team analyzed the records of 40,820 service members who were hospitalized at least once between 2004 and 2009 for a mental health disorder. Researchers found that 5% of the sample patients tested 15 times more likely to commit suicide during the first year after being released from the hospital than the rest of the test group.

The team formulated a list of more than 300 factors that could be related to suicide risk, including age, access to weapons, military rank, history of substance abuse, IQ, clashes with leadership, combat experience, PTSD diagnosis, and marital status.

Through their study, researchers were able narrow the list of factors down to those that together identified the 5% at highest risk, resulting in more than half of the suicides that occurred within the entire group in the year following hospital discharge.

Some of the shared factors among those at higher risk were expected, such as previous suicide attempts, contracting a traumatic brain injury, and a history of using weapons. But other factors, such as an enlistment age older than 26, and having a higher I.Q., came as a surprise.

Researchers believe that if the new prediction program can be integrated into the military’s medical system, it could allow doctors to follow high-risk soldiers closely after discharge, allowing them to take preventive measures. These measures could include outpatient therapy in the weeks after discharge, working to build social support by enlisting friends and family, and teaching coping mechanisms to deal with overwhelming feelings.

This type of suicide screening is not likely to be immediately useful for civilian hospitals, which do not have nearly as much personal data on patients as the military does.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New Suicide Screening: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Navy Suicides Up: By Debbie Gregory

Navy suicides upRecently, the Pentagon released updated figures on the suicides within all service branches.

So far in 2014, the Navy has seen the biggest increase in suicides among its active duty personnel. Unfortunately, as of the end of July, the Navy experienced 38 suicides, a number that is almost a 50% increase for the branch for the same time last year. In fact, the Navy recorded a total of 43 suicides for all of last year.

The increase in Navy suicides comes as a major blow to the Department of Defense, as there has been a deliberate push to eliminate suicides in all branches of the military. The Navy leadership has made suicide prevention a top priority over the last several years. After last year”s decline, and the significant decline overall, officials were hopeful that their efforts were working.

But Navy brass is not ready to call the increased rate a complete reversal of their suicide prevention labors. Officials said that most of this year’s suicides have been prompted by events that aren’t exclusive to the Navy or its sailors. Instead, the Navy claims that events that commonly precede most civilian suicides prompted the bulk of their 2014 suicides, including family, legal and financial difficulties, removal from a leadership position, and missed promotions at work.

The Navy has been active in implementing suicide prevention programs, both in their individual commands and on their installations, and has taken several measures to reduce sailors” stress, especially among those who deploy.

The Navy recently hired several resiliency counselors who are civilian mental health workers, deploying with crews aboard aircraft carriers and large-deck amphibious ships.

Starting this year, the Navy is requiring its deploying sailors to complete a four-hour training course. The course gives sailors the tools needed for managing stress, and teaches sailors and officers in leadership roles to recognize signs of a potential suicide.

All of the men and women serving in the military need to know when and how they can get help if they are having suicidal thoughts. Service members are urged to tell their command, their direct superior, or even a buddy if they feel that they themselves have suicidal thoughts, or witness a comrade who might be.

Service members should call the Military Crisis Line or call 1(800) 273-8255 (then press 1).

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Navy Suicides Up:   By Debbie Gregory