Alaska e-Post online
What is it?
The Army Suicide Prevention Program is an Army-wide commitment to provide resources for suicide awareness, intervention skills, prevention and follow-up in an effort to reduce the occurrence of suicidal behavior across the Army enterprise.
The ASPP develops initiatives to tailor and target policies, programs and training in order to mitigate risk and behavior associated with suicide. A function of the ASPP is to track demographic data on suicidal behaviors to assist Army leaders in the identification of trends.
What has the Army done?
The ASPP has been in existence since 1984. Since 2001, the Army has increased emphasis on preventive and intervention measures, directing commanders to take ownership of the program and synchronize and integrate resources at installation level to mitigate risk. Suicide prevention training is provided in the pre-command, leadership and noncommissioned officer courses and to all deployed Soldiers during the redeployment phase of the Deployment Cycle Support Process.
In 2002, the Army provided Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training workshops and interactive CDs to installation chaplains to reinforce training at unit level. From 2003 to 2006, the Office of the Surgeon General deployed Mental Health Advisory Teams to Kuwait and Iraq to assess the mental health status of deployed Operation Iraqi Freedom Soldiers.
OTSG has continued to assess the ASPP and behavioral health care in Iraq through follow-on MHAT visits. As a result of the MHAT visits, OTSG established an additional behavioral health consultant position to synchronize and coordinate behavioral health resources needed across the area of operations. In 2006, the Army G-1 created a working group to better integrate and synchronize efforts from various agencies, identify trends and provide recommendations to senior Army leaders.
Since 2007, the Army has increased the number of suicide prevention coordinators in the active component, the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve; distributed 5,000 ASIST kits; and formed the MNF-I Task Force to review trends and allocate resources, as needed. These initiatives have resulted in an increase of behavioral health personnel for units that have been in theater for more than six months. They also require a Health Promotion Council to aid the commander in suicide prevention at every installation.
What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The Army plans to increase suicide intervention and risk assessment skills through skills-based training at military installations, in communities and in theater. The Army Suicide Event Report is produced annually by U.S. Army Medical Command. It provides lagging data on suicidal behavior for identification of theater-specific issues, which the Army then uses to disseminate modified suicide awareness briefings for leaders, Soldiers, rest and recreation personnel and families.
The Army is also distributing 6,500 ASIST kits for key leader training. In fiscal year 2009, the Army will carry out four Train-the-Trainer events to refresh the Army inventory of ASIST trainers Armywide and develop measures of effectiveness and compliance. Additionally, in 2008, the secretary of the Army directed the creation of a Suicide Prevention General Officer Steering Committee lead by the G-1 and the surgeon general.
The GOSC is tasked to review all policies, programs and training related to suicide prevention in the Army. The Army is approaching strengthening suicide prevention programs by leveraging its behavioral health strategy to increase life and coping skills across the enterprise. Within this strategy, the GOSC has approved leader-led suicide prevention chain teach and is forming an actionable intelligence cell under the auspices of the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine.
Why is this important to the Army?
The loss of any American Soldier’s life is a great tragedy, regardless of cause. In the case of suicide, the Army is committed to providing resources for awareness, intervention, prevention and follow-up necessary to help our Soldiers, civilians and families overcome difficult times.
Visit the CHPPM site at chppm-www.apgea.army.mil to read, download or order suicide prevention materials. A printed version of a poster emphasizing the idea that suicide prevention is about Soldiers taking care of Soldiers should be available by the end of the month.