Changes in the Army Appear to Impact Suicide Rate

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)– A year after major changes were made to how the US Army handles suicide among active duty service members, a dramatic drop in suicide rates for 2013 is reported.

According to a report in USA Today Friday suicides in the Army fell by nearly 20% in 2013. There were 150 suicides among soldiers on active-duty status last year, down from a record 185 in 2012, according to Army data. The numbers include both confirmed and suspected suicides.

Bill Koch with Still Serving Veterans in Huntsville says the decrease is a step in the right direction.

“Even one suicide is a travesty, but these numbers are a very good sign that the Army, and the military as a whole is taking this issue seriously and working hard to fix it,” Koch told WHNT News 19 Friday.

In the last few years the Army has beefed up behavioral health counseling, and changed the reporting procedures making it easier for soldiers to get help.

The Army has also spent tens of millions of dollars in a long-term study of suicide, teaming with the National Institutes of Health, and has developed a comprehensive program of instilling emotional resilience in soldiers, according to the report in USA Today.

“This is something all of us have to work on but locally there is a lot of places for soldiers and veterans just back from Iraq and Afghanistan to go to find help,” Koch added.

Even as these deaths among active-duty soldiers declined last year, deaths among those on inactive status — members of the National Guard or reserve who were not called into active duty — remained at record levels.

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