Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Army Suicide Study Kicks into Gear

Hi Everyone, Hope your doing well today. I find it a little strange that today I receive this update from NAMI, a day after I made a tribute video to the troops. I guess as Oprah say's, she was chosen as a vessel by her higher power to do good for others. Maybe I am truly meant to be a vessel with my blogs? (Now if I could just get compensated like her LOL!) One thing I know for sure is when I work I am happiest when I do social work. I loved working at Head Start as a Family Social Worker, but it got to be more like D.S.S. and that is not what I signed up for. I love to help people out. So now I am working towards helping Seniors as a Profession. I saw they really need a voice in the end when I visited my mother in the nursing home. I think the need I have to help people came from watching my mother suffer for years and and all I can remember is wanting to help her. Help did come, but not of my doing, but I was grateful all the same. I learned deep compassion as well walking through the halls of those locked doors and especially gratitude for everyday life. I have always thought a day not in there was a day in Paradise. This is a critical project that the Army is conducting on Suicide Prevention and it will help civilians as well. Suicide prevention is also a passion of mine, as my followers know:) I will walk next year with Out of the Darkness, even if I have to fly somewhere. (At the rate of my fund raising so far it will take till next year!) I was so disappointed that I could not do it this year. The information in this article focuses too on signs to watch for if you have a young soldier, so "PLEASE" read if you have one in your family or you know of someone who does. The stresses for the younger soldiers are even greater. Thank you if you do read and share this information. Now this vessel is going to "ship off" until next time, I know bad one, huh LOL! I included the links below for the full report and for the website Army Starrs for more very important information.
Thank you for visiting my blog,
Love ya,
Janet :)


August 20, 2010
Thomas Insel

Recently the U.S. Army released an extraordinary report titled, Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention. The report, complete with a call to action from Army Vice Chief of Staff General Peter Chiarelli, should have an impact beyond the Army, even beyond the military, to a nation that has not effectively addressed suicide as a public health crisis.

The background is important. Nationally, suicide mortality is nearly double the rate of homicide mortality. But rates of suicide in the Army have traditionally been lower than rates for civilians in the same age range. The rate in the Army began to increase in 2004, doubling by 2008, and reached 160 deaths in 2009, exceeding the comparable civilian rate and ranking as the third largest cause of death.

For the month of June 2010, the Army reported an astonishing 32 suspected suicides—a record high. Commenting on the high rates of 2009, the report notes, “If we include accidental death which is frequently the result of high risk behavior (drinking and driving, drug overdose, etc.), we find that less young men and women die in combat than die by their own hands. Simply stated, we are often more dangerous to ourselves than the enemy.”(p. 11)

While we do not yet have 2008 or 2009 suicide numbers for the civilian population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 34,598 suicides in 2007, a slight increase over previous years, and a conspicuous difference from the trends in numbers of homicides and motor vehicle deaths, which have dropped markedly in the past decade. It is possible that civilian suicides have increased during the recent recession – we will not have 2008 and 2009 data from CDC surveillance for another year. But we cannot wait to ask about the reasons for this dramatic increase in suicide in the Army, nor should we wait to intervene.

For that reason, the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service members (Army STARRS) was officially launched in late 2008 when NIMH and the U.S. Army partnered to address the increasing rate of suicide. Over the early months of this effort, both parties realized the need to focus on resilience as well as risk. We modeled the Army STARRS approach after the Framingham study of cardiac death to conduct a broad investigation of factors leading to adverse outcomes, including suicide, depression, PTSD, and high risk self-destructive behaviors. Accordingly, Army STARRS will have many components, from retrospective studies of completed suicides to prospective studies that will identify the most important predictors of risk and resilience.

What do we know right now? We know that one explanation will not suffice. As General Chiarelli said in Senate testimony, “Every suicide is as different and as unique as the people themselves. And, the reality is there is no one reason a person decides to commit suicide. That decision reflects a complex combination of factors and events ….”

While nothing is typical about suicide, the report notes the typical suicide victim within the Army would be a “23 year old Caucasian, junior-enlisted male Soldier. Whereas 86.6 percent of the Army population is male, 96.9 percent of the suicide deaths in 2009 were male. Although 62.7 percent of the Army population is Caucasian, 76.7 percent of the suicide deaths were Caucasian victims. Interestingly, marriage or one or more deployments appears to decrease risk. However, analysis of prior deployments can be confounded by higher attrition from service following deployment resulting in a self-selection process whereby those who remain in service after deployment tend to be a relatively healthy segment of the population. We have learned that suicide risk is highest for currently deployed soldiers, and lowest for those who have never deployed. In addition, suicide risk appears to be higher during the first year of service or deployment compared to other times, suggesting that Commanders may need to be extra vigilant about monitoring their soldiers during these times.”(p. 18)

There are many hypotheses: multiple deployments, lowered standards for recruiting, lowered discipline, etc. In fact, the report raises more questions than answers, leaving much of the work to the Army STARRS project. Some will, no doubt, ask about the role of stress in today’s Army. A footnote in the report mentions that “at 24 years of age, a Soldier, on average, has moved from home, family and friends and has resided in two other states; has traveled the world (deployed); been promoted four times; bought a car and wrecked it; married and had children; has had relationship and financial problems; seen death; is responsible for dozens of Soldiers; maintains millions of dollars worth of equipment; and gets paid less than $40,000 a year.”(p. 2) Army STARRS will explore stressors and individual differences in how soldiers respond to them.

In the next few weeks, researchers from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Services, University of Michigan, Harvard University and Columbia University as well as the U.S. Army and NIMH will begin surveying soldiers (including Mobilized Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers) at several installations across the country. The team plans to work with soldiers who are deployed as well.

Army STARRS is about saving lives. By working with as many soldiers as possible—up to 400,000 over the course of the five-year study—NIMH and the rest of the research team hope to identify the risk and protective factors that affect a soldier’s psychological resilience, mental health, and potential for self-harm. Researchers are committed to reporting their findings to the Army as quickly as possible so that they may inform the Army’s ongoing efforts to protect soldiers’ well-being.

A new Army STARRS Web site has been created to describe and document the project as it progresses. I encourage everyone to visit the Army STARRS web site frequently to keep abreast of this unprecedented project. In the meantime, read this report. General Chiarelli and his team have taken an aggressive stance to reduce stigma and prevent suicide. In an earlier war, the Army helped the nation to overcome discrimination based on race. Today, the Army appears to be leading the way for our nation to reduce discrimination based on mental distress. And, we are hopeful that the lessons learned from Army STARRS will help our nation address the tragedy of suicide among civilians as well as soldiers.


  1. the Army will be doing a great thing by even acknowledging there is a problem and to study it, no one wants to admit or even ask for help when thoughts of suicide seep into your mind.

    It may seem like an easy thing, but from experience those thoughts stick like glue an form a life of their own.

    People contemplating suicide need help!

    I'm happy to see blogs like yours!

  2. Hi Gregg, thank you so much for your comment and your kind words about my blogs. I agree with you 100 percent, anyone thinking of suicide needs a lot of help because yes, once the thought is in there and no one is aware it may be to late. I like your blog as well. I look forward to visiting it often,
    Take Care,
    Janet :)

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