The latest statistic for the suicides in the U.S. Army National Guard so far in 2013 is 71. Some popular reasons rolled out for military suicide are multiple deployments, financial difficulties, or disruption in personal relationships. However, most of those who died by suicide had not been deployed to any war-involved theater and most were employed and had significant relationships. Still, seventy-one of our citizen soldiers have killed themselves in the last seven months. Devastatingly true but if the current rate continues the projected number of suicides will exceed more than any number of suicides in the Army National Guard so far in any previous year. What does that tell us?
That simply means what the military has been doing is not working. That would not seem so horrendous or terribly militarily different – I mean, some program not working. But this failure is costing valuable lives. Valuable, talented, important and essential people are dying while the military doles out apps, and produces PowerPoints, and funds millions for anti-suicide nasal sprays. The lives of fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons are irreparably altered, changed forever because of the loss of their loved one and nothing is happening to change that.
All the military programs to reduce stigma, to encourage seeking help, to promote positive psychology are not working. All the millions thrown towards developing the perfect pill for trauma-related depression, the ideal method for referral to mental health care, or the elusive resiliency classes have created the opposite effect. Why is that?
These are “things” the military throws at the troops. External “things” are projects, devices, gadgets, all exogenous mechanisms that generally don’t work when the problem is endogenous, internally oriented.
Isolation is one of the major hallmarks of suicidality and “things” create further isolation between people. “Things”, devices, gadgets and projects all create separation. They don’t bring people together. They don’t convince someone that anyone cares. “Things” can’t do that. “Things” and projects expand the suicidal emptiness and sense of disconnect instead of making the bond that only human interaction can create.
Unit cohesion is what the military touts as human connection. Battle buddies are the only real connection that the military encourages. But when it comes to battle buddies doing anything beyond escorting someone to the chaplain or medical for suicidal ideation, that is not considered as effective action. Perhaps that is thought of as interference with unit cohesion. I really do not know why the military does not take advantage of the one true benefit that is the human connection.
The answer to resolving suicidality not only in the military, but in the world is human connection – human support, not “things”. The answer to suicide in the military is the same as the answer for the entire world and it is right in front of their eyes. How do we open their eyes? More information can be found in the book, “Just Because You’re Suicidal Doesn’t Mean You’re Crazy: The Psychobiology of Suicide”, 2012. Or you can go to the website, http://www.jsp3.org, where there is a downloadable booklet that explains how trusted friends and family can actively support someone who