The Army Suicide Prevention Program is a program initiated by the United States Army to reduce the number of suicides committed by soldiers and their loved ones, especially recent combat veterans. It involves teaching suicide intervention techniques to leaders as well as educating all service members on how to recognize when someone may be contemplating taking their own life. The U.S. Army also distributes informational material and operates a suicide prevention hot line.
Suicides among service members have increased dramatically over the past few years as combat veterans have returned home after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many soldiers return with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can cause depression and lead to suicide. The Army Suicide Prevention Program aims to provide counseling for service members who show signs of PTSD or have trouble adjusting to family life after returning from a war zone.
Another component of the program involves teaching soldiers how to recognize when one of their comrades or family members may be thinking about taking their own life. Mandatory briefings are given to service members on a periodic basis, normally annually. They are usually conducted by a chaplain or mental health professional. Soldiers may be encouraged to talk with one of these individuals privately if they are suffering from PTSD or thinking about suicide.
In addition to recognizing the signs of suicide, the Army Suicide Prevention Program also teaches soldiers how to intervene on behalf of another service member if they believe them to be at risk. Service members may be given situations and asked to role play in some cases. This is to help them be prepared in the event they may need to make a real-life intervention on behalf of a comrade.
Educational materials are provided to service members, family members, and Department of Defense (DOD) civilian employees. This often is in the form of pamphlets that contain referrals to mental health professionals, chaplains, and the suicide prevention hot line. By doing so, the military hopes to remove the stigma long associated with members of the military undergoing counseling, as this has traditionally had a negative affect on the soldier's career.
The Army Suicide Prevention Program aims to help military members and their families by keeping them from taking their own lives. Doing so helps the armed forces maintain a state of readiness at all times. The United States government believes this to be an integral part of repaying those who have served their nation and its citizens.