Friday, November 16, 2012

Army suicides appear to increase

Yesterday, the Defense Dept released the US Army's suicide numbers for last month: "20 potential suicides: five have been confirmed as suicides, and 15 remain under investigation" which is an increase of five from September's numbers.   DoD notes that 2011 resulted in 165 deaths confirmed as suicides and that 2012 has seen 105 confirmed and 61 which are still being investigated.  So if all under investigation currently were to be ruled suicide, October will be the month that 2012 surpassed 2011 for number of army members taking their own lives (166 is the number of suicides if the 61 under investigation end up determined to be suicides).  With two months of data remaining for the calendar year, it is likely 2012 will see an increase in the number of suicides.

The numbers are going the wrong way, obviously.  Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates provided empty words and ineffective tools on this issue.  Secretary Leon Panetta has focused more on the issue and has had a more intelligent touch including supporting the sharing of stories by the Pentagon to let others know they are not alone, that contemplating suicide doesn't mean the end of your military career, that asking for help is a sign of strength and not weakness.

I do know and like Leon and I applaud him for that work and for the work he's done treating military assault as a real crime and not the 'irritating complaint of some woman.'  But I think Gates did an awful job and I said he should have been evaluated by what he accomplished (not by how cooperative he was with the press).  Liking Leon doesn't mean I think he shouldn't be evaluated by the markers as well.  And the numbers are not on his side with regards to military suicides currently.   If this doesn't change before he steps down, then this is an issue that the press will have to address.

You're judged by your actions.  The argument that you shouldn't be because someone else wasn't?  You have to wonder about the level of parenting in this country.  If a child has done something wrong and you're in the process of correcting that only to be told others do it "too!," do we just let tht fly by?  "Well if everyone decided to jump off a cliff, would you do that too?"  I thought we'd all heard and/or said that or something similar.

Apparently not because a huge number of idiots are trying to make the case for Susan Rice to be Secretary of State on the back of it, "Well Condi Rice did something similar!"   Granted, making a case for Susan Rice is difficult because she is not qualified for the post.  So maybe this immature crap is all that the likes of Senator Barbara Boxer can offer?

As someone who supports the most qualified candidate for that job (Senator John Kerry), I'm thrilled that crazy Barbara and others are doing this because I don't inhabit the bubble.  Do you know this plays?  Susan Rice is barely known of.  Condi Rice is known.  People are confusing the two and that's not a good thing for Susan Rice.  So thank you, Barbara and others, for creating a public opinion even more hostile to Susan Rice.  Thank you and please continue your ineptitude.  (And, in Barbara's case, her grudge against John.)  Please continue tying Susan Rice to Condi No-One-Could-Have-Guessed Rice.   (To Barbara's credit, at least she's not making threats about ending filbusters the way another senator is -- what's that?  He's not a senator?  I know.  He seems confused about many things, doesn't he?  Guaranteeing what will happen in the Senate?  Confused and maybe a little nutty.  But he pushes along the Condi Rice and Susan Rice comparison so helps the public associate blend the two women into one in their mind.  Again, thank you.)

Again, I like Leon.  But he wasn't nominated and confirmed to be someone I like.  He was nominated and confirmed to be the Secretary of Defense.  His first duties in that role?  They include ensuring the safety of those serving.  That means protecting them from assaults within the military, that means ensuring that when they feel they have reached the end of their rope, there is help available.  I don't expect him or any other secretary to do away with suicide.  It will always be with us, it always has been.  It's also truism that rates are higher during an economic downturn.

But the rate is increasing.  It would be valid to note the rate only dropping slightly and how that's a negative for a sitting Secretary of Defense.  But worse than a slight drop is an increase.

He has done some work that is helpful on this issue, he needs to double those efforts.  Especially with regards to chaplains and officers sharing their stories of addressing suicidal thoughts.   The use of officers to speak about how this is a team issue is also beneficial.  The video below was released in September.

 But so much more needs to be done.  And if  Leon Panetta stepped down tomorrow, he would not get a passing grade on this topic because you're not graded on likability, you're graded on did you do the job?

The DoD press release notes these resources:

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by visiting their website at .
Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at .
The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at .
Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).
Information about Military OneSource is located at or by dialing the toll-free number 1-800-342-9647 for those residing in the continental United States. Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource website for dialing instructions for their specific location.
Information about the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at .
The Defense Center for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at .
The website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is found at .

The following community sites -- plus Ms. Magazine blog, Cindy Sheehan, The NewsHour, On the Wilder Side,  L Studio, The Diane Rehm Show,, C-SPAN, Dissident Voice,  Pacifica Evening News and Jody Watley -- updated last night and today:

Plus Mike's "He really is a jerk" not showing up above (and his "Jobs and Fringe" didn't show up yesterday morning -- but is now showing up as his most recent).

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