The U.S. Army‘s top official said Thursday that he wants to see sergeants making regular visits to the barracks on weekends to help reduce the number of soldiers who die by suicide, Matthew Cox AT Military.com reports.
Suicide is a problem that every service struggles to prevent. In calendar year 2017, 509 U.S. military personnel died by suicide, according to Defense Department numbers. Of that number, the Army suffered 298 deaths by suicide across the active duty, National Guard and Reserve.
“It’s a tragedy that we have suicide in our ranks, but it’s coming into our ranks from society writ large, Every week, I am signing letters to families offering my condolences for soldiers who have taken their lives.
The problem typically affects younger soldiers and is usually related to personal financial problems, relationship problems and career concerns and that alcohol consumption can be a factor as well.
t’s also “typically a Friday night though Sunday morning problem, I am pushing very hard to get NCOs back in the barracks on the weekends, walking the hallways, checking in on soldiers, knocking on doors, seeing who is the loner out there.
The real push I am trying to do is to really … get the chain of command back involved, getting to know [their soldiers], engaging them, understanding what their problems are, understanding their family, their backgrounds — all of that. We’ve just got to get to know our soldiers better … if we are to bring this number down.
We can do a whole lot better because I don’t want to lose anybody, and every soldier lost is a loss to readiness.” ~ Army Secretary Mark Esper
The U.S. military reflects an important subset of the U.S. population with both shared and unique characteristics when compared to the U.S. population. Historically, military suicide rates have been lower than those rates found in the general population. Rising suicide rates among Service members and Veterans over the past decade have raised public and professional concerns. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. military. According to the calendar year 2015 Department of Defense Suicide Event Report (DoDSER) annual report, the standardized suicide rate was 20.2 per 100,000 for the Active component. For the Selected Reserves component, the rates were 24.7 per 100,000 for the Reserves and 27.1 per 100,000 for the National Guard.
A number of psychosocial factors are associated with suicide risk. The most common individual stressors identified for both military suicide decedents and military suicide attempts were relationship problems, administrative/legal issues and workplace difficulties. Other medical conditions that are associated with an increased risk for suicide include traumatic brain injury (TBI), chronic pain, and sleep disorders. These conditions can contribute substantially to increased suicide risk in affected individuals. Deployment Psych
What people seem to fail to understand is that soldiers are trained to be warriors and warriors view talking about their personal emotional demons as a weakness. Weakness is viewed as a liability and shameful, and therefore it is taboo to reveal the nightmares in your head.
Men and women in uniform do not want their brothers and sisters to see them as weak, so they do not talk about it and it creates the perfect storm within them that leads them to the last resort. These emotions lead to frustration, confusion, shame, useless, forgotten and ultimately without hope and 0 resolution to escape.
The military and the VA do not seem to understand how to address the seriousness of the suicides, micromanaging the soldiers is not the solution and will ultimately lead to more issues rather than cures.
Because brass fails to grasp the situation, soldiers and vets have taken it upon themselves to reach out to their brothers and sisters in uniform to pull them from the darkness and help them battle out of it.
“Personally, I believe this is the best solution we have right now, each other and accountability on all scales for one another, the bond and brotherhood must allow the openness to reveal the inner demons.
Another aspect that people need to be aware of is that if you have a battle buddy, a brother you go to for clearing the coconut, there are times that I do not want to share whats in my head, the nightmares or the battle within, because I do not want to my brother to see me as weak, as rage or to bring chaos to their day and overall feel judged and sentenced. So I have at times hid within my own head, smiled and rucked on all the while the battle in my coconut is hell and rage that I cannot shut off or hide from the pain.
When I look into my brother’s eyes when I want to release the darkness, I feel exposed and vulnerable, I feel shame and pain, I feel panicked and weak all as a tornado of emotions. At times having the courage to open up with everything chaining me down is more than I have within me. However, the times that I do, I feel an overwhelming release and my world gets righted and I see the blue skies and feel the sun again.
The media has made PTSD and soldiers with internal battles look like they are walking time bombs, that we are a danger to society. THIS IS NOT TRUE For the Love of God, never believe this.
This is how I KNOW that the Spartan Pledge is vital and the commitment to each other is vital, even though I have yet to take the pledge myself. The times are becoming rarer and rarer that I feel locked in, finding that mission to help one another, the selflessness, that changes lives forever and for the better.” ~ Badger
The Spartan Pledge is a commitment among veterans to not take their own lives but rather stand for their fellow soldiers in times of despair. It was created almost accidentally by an Iraq veteran, Boone Cutler, when he spoke with another veteran, his friend “Nacho,” about a mutual friend’s suicide.
“I said to him, ‘Have you ever thought about it?’” Cutler remembered. “And he said, ‘Yeah, I think about it every day.’ And it blew me away. We’d never discussed that—and we were tight. We covered each other.”
Off the cuff, Cutler and his buddy made a promise.
“You really can’t think too far ahead when you’re in that state of mind, so I said, ‘Just call. Just call me first. Don’t punk out. Don’t go without saying goodbye,’” Cutler told his friend. “And then we made an agreement to at least call each other first.”
Other veterans helped that evolve into what Cutler started calling the Spartan Pledge, which he said around a thousand veterans have made. It’s just two lines, meant to give vets a pause before they hurt themselves:
“I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first. My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family.” DAV
The Spartan Pledge has caught fire in the veteran community and continues to be a binding promise among suffering veterans. While there can be no study of how effective the Pledge is, many say just having that “battle buddy” aware of what’s going on inside can be the difference between suicide and life.
Cutler and a charity called The Gallant Few have made this mission to combat veteran suicide with his creation of The Spartan Pledge. Warfighters promise not to take their own lives, and instead vow to find a new mission to help one another.
It does not matter if you like the music, listen to the words and be there for each other:
WARRIOR INTEGRATION NOW (WIN)
Full Spectrum Health and Mission 22 have partnered to create the WIN program. The goal is to eliminate the symptoms of trauma by addressing the underlying physiological and psychological imbalances. By the end of this twelve month program you will feel calmer in your body and mind, and more connected to those around you. More information can be found HERE.
Raul Gudino2 – Don’t they realize it’s this kind of micromanaging overbearing bullcrap that makes people want to blow their brains out. I would argue this will do much more harm than good.Michael Woods – I thought they already had duty NCOs. We Marines did during my 23 years. And if they stopped providing hotels and went back to squad bays with the squad leader’s private room in the corner, there’d really be supervision. For one thing, the soldiers would almost never be alone and they could look after each other. That’s how it used to be.
Shawn Treasure – Some sage wisdom was given to me when I first became a team leader. “Take care of your soldiers and they will take care of you”. It was always my belief that if you are taking care of them you will know when things are not right with them. As a squad leader I was required to have a squad book that had information on each one of my soldiers, their wife/husband, kids, parents just about anything you could think of, but if someone in the chain of command asked about one of them, lord help you if you opened that book…you should know your troops and if you really care about them then you shouldn’t need to look at the book. It was a good lesson about caring for the person INSIDE the uniform.Till Valhalla…