Friday, September 28, 2012

Army Holds Suicide-Prevention Training for All Soldiers

On September 27, the U.S. Army told all its soldiers to take a break from their regular duties and focus on suicide-prevention training. Suicides among active-duty soldiers have increased this year and could exceed last year’s 167. But lectures and suicide-awareness posters aren’t enough, said a retired Army colonel, psychiatrist Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D., M.P.H., now chief clinical officer for the District of Columbia Office of Mental Health. Among Ritchie’s suggestions for her former military colleagues (outlined in her blog for Time magazine) are:

  • Reevaluate policies that promote stigma;
  • Reexamine the security clearance process, widely viewed as a barrier to seeking treatment;
  • Revise the deployment-limiting psychiatric medications policy, which precludes soldiers from deploying if they have had any change in psychiatric medication or condition in the prior three months;
  • Change the current stigmatizing process of getting treatment in the military mental health system by integrating mental health with primary care;
  •  Discuss openly the contributions of alcohol abuse and gun ownership to suicidal behavior;
  • Explore complementary and alternative medical approaches to care;
  • Increase the behavioral health workforce, both military and civilian. 

For more in Psychiatric News about suicide and mental health in the armed forces, click here and here.

(Image: JustASC/