Late Breaking News
Panetta: Suicide Trends Moving in Tragic Direction
WASHINGTON—Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said that suicide trends “continue to move in a troubling and tragic direction” at the annual DoD/VA Suicide Prevention Conference held this past week.
“This issue, suicides, is perhaps the most frustrating challenge that I have come across since becoming Secretary of Defense last year,” he said.
This issue is first and foremost a leadership responsibility, he said.
“All those in command and leadership positions, particularly junior officers and NCOs who have day-to-day responsibility for troops, need to be sensitive, need to be aware, need to be open, to signs of stress in the ranks, and they need to be aggressive, aggressive, in encouraging those who serve under them to seek help if needed. They also must set an example by seeking help themselves if necessary,” he said.
DoD now has more than 9,000 psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses and counselors working in military hospitals and in military clinics, he said.
“Behavioral health experts are now being embedded into line units, and the department has worked to place mental health providers in primary care clinics in order to facilitate access,” he said.
Still, he said that guardsmen and reservists often do not have ready access to the same support network as the active duty troops.
“We’ve got to do what we can to increase initiatives like the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program that’s working to address this kind of problem,” he said.
Other suicide prevention efforts he cited included work to elevate mental fitness to the same level of importance that DoD has placed on physical fitness and increasing research in suicide prevention.
Panetta said his long-term goal for DoD “is to be a game-changing innovator in this field.”
“Just as we helped foster the jet age, the space race and the Internet, I want us to break new ground in understanding the human mind and human emotion,” he said.
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