The Struggle to Stop Soldier Suicide: Dept. of Defense Plans Psychotherapy Study

A GoodTherapy.org News Update

For many people of all vocations and backgrounds, times have been considerably tough for the past few years. Major changes in terms of financial life along with a rapidly growing and changing world have created a fair amount of turmoil, and those in both developed and emerging nations have been feeling the pinch. Yet perhaps closest to the front lines of change, especially when change takes a violent turn, there exists a group of people whose experience of day to day difficulty puts them in an entirely different class. Soldiers at war are exposed to some of the most stressful and harrowing experiences modern life has to offer, and many are finding the burden too difficult to bear.

There’s no denying that soldier suicide is a critical issue; it was recently revealed that in January, more soldiers died by their own hands than in the course of combat. An incredible fact that seems on the edge of possibility, this problem belies the need for meaningful and rapid understanding on the part of armed forces administrators and leaders, and for effective prevention programs as well. Accordingly, the US Department of Defense today announced the appointment of David Rudd, Psychology Chair at Texas Tech University, to a study that will test psychological treatments for suicidal veterans.

The study, set to begin in September, has been allocated nearly two million dollars’ of funding and will focus on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. Aiming to reflect and seamlessly work with the structure and demands of military life, the study will incorporate a relatively short three-month treatment period, and determine whether a customized, scalable program can help soldiers keep suicidal thoughts and feelings at bay, for both mental health and the ability to remain in service.

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Lauren

    Lauren

    April 22nd, 2009 at 6:09 AM

    It is no wonder that this phenomenon is a growing fact! Look at all of the heartache and violence that so many of these men and women have to deal with head on on a daily basis. It does not affect those of us who see the action from afar like it does them, because for them it does become personal. And if the military is anyhting like I would think, this is an issue that they will for sure want to push under the table.

  • Lisa

    Lisa

    April 23rd, 2009 at 2:35 PM

    How sad this news is. We should be so thankful for all that these soldiers do for us but I know that so many of them do not feel that they get the respect that they deserve which just makes the job that they have even harder. We used to be a nation that rallied around her military but now we treat them as if they are the bad guys. What happened to shore up this type of mentality? Add this to the overwhelming pressures that these soldiers already face in the line of duty and it is easy to see why suicide cases in the military are on the rise. I do not know if there is much that can be done to stem this growing trend other than to have psychiatrists at every camp site and that really does not seem very likely. I also wonder about the psychological screenings that are done upon having them enlist. Is this even done? I would think that would be a standard part of finding out whether someone is able to serve or not but I guess there is never any real way to predict how someone will react in real world situations.

  • Freida

    Freida

    April 23rd, 2009 at 8:58 PM

    Being a soldier requires a lot of self-discipline and a constant awareness of death. Most of us dont live lives preparing to safeguard our own or that of others. The constant pressure of the awareness of dying is hard by itself to cope with. Following orders and disciplining oneself constantly causes bottling of emotions. When the pressure builds they pop. An emotional outlet for those who protect the lives of many is a must.

  • John

    John

    April 24th, 2009 at 3:50 AM

    As a former Marine I would have to say that those who have never been in the military have no idea just how stressful the job can be. You can imagine but until you have walked in a soldier’s shoes then you don’t know. I am not surprised at all to read about suicide cases on the rise in this field. Saddened yes but not surprised.

  • Shannon

    Shannon

    April 26th, 2009 at 9:09 AM

    I pray everyday for our soldiers overseas while there are too many who ignore this group of brave young people. I hope that through prayer this in some small way can help to alleviate some of the pain and stresses that they encounter. Maybe we have lost sight of this group and this is really taking its toll overall. I know that there are many who dismiss the power of prayer but I for one feel very strong about its importance in our lives and the lives of others and hope that we will not continue to dismiss the positive benefits that it can bring.

  • John

    John

    April 26th, 2009 at 9:46 PM

    I am just curious to know if there are any helplines that soldiers can call if they are upset or unstable emotionally while staying anonymous. Are they allowed to continue in service if found to be attending therapy of any sort?

  • sherri

    sherri

    April 27th, 2009 at 5:06 AM

    maybe the time to be a little more in control of the guns in our country is finally here. . .

  • Oliver

    Oliver

    April 28th, 2009 at 1:54 PM

    And definitely time to give these soldiers the care and recognition they deserve.

  • Krystal

    Krystal

    April 28th, 2009 at 5:15 PM

    I am a soldier. My husband is deployed. its stressful down range and in country. Yes, the military is definitely cracking down on suicides among the troops. Last month I attended a suicide prevention class hosted by our Chaplain. Its an Army-wide requirement and will most likely be held quartly. Just like our anit-substance abuse, anti-rape and Drinking and driving classes. All units have Chaplains which are cerified for councilling. ACS, Army Community Services, provides hotlines and free therapy. We are trained to look for signs of depression among the ranks and it is strongly encouraged to openly approach one’s first line supervisor of any suspicious behavior. As for pre-enlistment screening.. I didnt have one. Hell, they were letting in soldier who had felonies for a while. It’s a recruiter’s judgement call. These soldiers killing themselves are doing so over recently developed problems. Maybe the made more money before they came in. Now they’re struggling. Or the most common deployment problem, wives or husbands leaving them while they’re down range. Some see and do things they just cant wrap their minds around. But they’re not doing so because they’re bad people. We volunteered. because if we didnt, you would be made to. If we didn’t go there they would come here. But soldiers arent angels. We’re only human too.

  • Sheldon

    Sheldon

    April 29th, 2009 at 1:51 AM

    It was nice of you to share this with us Krystal and I salute you, soldier!!

  • Karen

    Karen

    April 30th, 2009 at 1:46 AM

    I feel for the soldiers who are defending us and our country. John is right, we can only imagine what they go through if we have never been there before. It’s no wonder suicide happens among soldiers. Between seeing their friends and other people killed in duty, to worrying what will happen next and always on their guard….I applaud the soldiers who put themselves out there for us.

  • Clark

    Clark

    April 30th, 2009 at 1:53 AM

    It’s really sad to know that our soldiers are so stressed. I think a lot of wars has not been the answer to solving any of the world’s problems. War on terror has struck more damage at home than anywhere else.

  • Krystal

    Krystal

    April 30th, 2009 at 7:36 PM

    Thank you for your gratitude. As for John’s question, therapy is meant to help the soldiers recover so if found fit for duty then yes, they can stay in. It’s sad to say but i’m sure in some cases there are just some things that some people can’t come back from. But they aren’t thrown out on their asses. They are still taken care of. Please excuse my language.

  • Krystal

    Krystal

    April 30th, 2009 at 7:40 PM

    Sherri, I’m sorry to say but I dont think the issue of gun control in America relates in any way to our soldier’s in the armed forces taking their own lives. I’m sure if you did take away their guns and they’re that set on what they want to do, they’ll manage. Besides, if you take away my weapon… what am I going to use to defend our country?? a rock?

  • Krystal

    Krystal

    May 2nd, 2009 at 12:50 PM

    Clark, i see your perspective but think about it, there has been an unofficial “war on terrorism” for centuries. Therefore, some people see no reason for us to go to war over it now. Right? There have been acts of terrorism all over the world in the past few decades, one you may all remember, the OKC bombing. It was called an act of terrorism. So why now? Why wage war in the middle east? Because the Taliban have pinpointed the US as a target. They dont like our religious freedoms. They call us infedels. They train kids as young as 8 to fight and kill Americans. So why Iraq?? We all know there are no WMD’s. We have all seen footage of the Iraqi people on the streets living normal lives, being normal people. But the Taliban do not consist of just Iraqis. But because their borders are conpletely unguardable due to vast deserts, Taliban who go to other countries convince illiterate men and women that the Koran tells them to kill Americans and that they’ll be rewarded. When that doesnt work they hold a gun to their families and heads and tell them that they’ll shoot their families. What if you lived in Pakistan, you were a simple man, making the most minimum wages to feed what little food you could to your family and someone came and took it all away. Took you away and brain washed you to become a suicide bomber. But that’s not the case. Youre here in America, sipping your Latte, on your laptop, in your warm bed with your family, not having a care in the world while soldiers in the greatest Army the world has ever seen fighting on the front line so that poor foreigner doesnt come here and take away everything you’ve ever known. Dont judge the war if you’ve never been down range.

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