The Military’s Solution To The Troop Suicide Epidemic
Fact: As many as 121 American soldiers may have committed suicide during 2007. That compares with 52 Army suicides in 2001 and 79 in 2003, the first year of the Iraq war. The Army suicide rate in 2006 was 17.5-per-100,000, the highest since rate estimates began in 1980. The civilian rate is 11-per-100,000. [USA Today]
Another fact: More than half of all veterans who took their own lives after returning from Iraq or Afghanistan were members of the National Guard or Reserves, according to new government data that prompted activists on Tuesday to call for a closer examination of the problem. [AP]
The staggering suicide rate has often been linked to the lack of mental health professionalsâ��and the generally weak psychological careâ��present in the armed forces.
But now, it seems as though the military has found an, um, interesting solution to help curb the problem: an interactive video that will have soldiers play the role of a 19-year-old GI in Iraq ready to kill himself. [Mic Check]
The video is just like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, only much, much darker. The GI is shown fantasizing about suicide, says the gameâ��s screenwriter Chris Stezin, in a barracks scene where the character points an M-4 rifle at himself. Later, if the player avoids seeking help, the character grows more despondent and is shown entering his barracks. A gunshot is then heard, and the screen fades to black.
â��Weâ��re all butting our heads against the wall, trying to figure out what else we can doâ�� to address the problem, says Army Lt. Col. Orman â��Wayneâ�� Boyd, a chaplain who develops anti-suicide programs for the Armyâ��s Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine. This, apparently, is their solution
May we offer a suggestion?
While an interactive video is an innovative approach, the military may need to pursue other options in the mental health department. For startersâ��how about not sending troops back into battle that have already proven to be suicidal?
Earlier this week, it was reported that a bipolar, alcoholic soldier who was hospitalized after a suicide attempt was released early and ordered to deploy to the Middle East. [Editor and Publisher]
Weâ��re just sayinâ��...