Army Seeks To Curb Rising Tide Of Suicides
At Fort Myer, Va., a small Army base across the river from Washington, D.C., Chaplain Mark Worrell is talking to about 100 soldiers, reciting the grim numbers.
"This year, 2012, there have been more suicides in the Army than combat deaths," he says.
Worrell paces in front of the stage in a small auditorium and talks with the soldiers for more than an hour about the warning signs of suicide. He asks them what they would do if a friend starting selling his tools and lost interest in his favorite hobbies.
"He's stopping working on cars, he sold his weapons collection, doesn't like shooting anymore," he says. "What are you supposed to do at that point?"
"Ask him," a soldier replies.
"Right," the Worrell says, "you've got to start getting to know him, right?"
A Growing Problem
Soldiers are told to ask questions, listen and escort the friend to a chaplain or hospital if necessary.
This is the kind of training soldiers around the world are receiving Thursday. The sessions are aimed at beating back some of the misconceptions about military suicide — like the idea that only those in combat are at risk.
Worrell says those based stateside still face family pressures. And then there's the stress of not deploying.
"Let's put it in terms of the Olympics: If you trained all your life and never got to compete, would that be much fun? Sometimes garrison is the same way. We train but never get to do our job," he says.
The U.S. military is trying to improve treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. But many veterans say they're still under pressure to deny they have problems. Here, military personnel attend a presentation on PTSD at Fort Hamilton Army Garrison in Brooklyn, N.Y., in December 2009.
The Army has been struggling to deal with the suicide problem since numbers began rising in 2004. This year, the average is nearly one soldier suicide a day.
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