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Army’s Answer To Suicide: Build A More ‘Resilient’ Soldier

US Army proposes to build and more resilient soldier to combat suicides and violence.

The US Army has been floundering for answers with the recent spike in military suicides and soldier violence, and now they’ve proposed a solution: Build a more “resilient” soldier.

Army Secretary John McHugh said on Monday that the US Army intends to take steps to “improve soldiers’ resilience to mental health problems to combat such deaths as well as depression, substance abuse, and violent behavior.”

McHugh ordered Army officials to lay out detailed plan by February 15 to boost soliders’ “physical, emotional and psychological resilience.” No other details of the plan have been released.

“Interventions are not coming as soon as I would like to see them,” McHugh said at a news conference at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. “Taking care of soldiers is one of our top priorities. It is not just a necessity but a moral imperative.”

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is the home base of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is being on multiple murder charged after killing 16 Afghan civilians last spring.

The United State military revealed in January that last year was a record high for suicides. In fact, more soldiers are dying from suicide than from combat. Last year, 349 active-duty service members committed suicide; almost one for every day of the tumultuous year.

There has also been a significant rise in solider violence.

McHugh stated that he hoped to eliminate “any stigma or barriers associated with seeking help,” and later acknowledged that there was widespread confusion “over the resources available to help soldiers and bureaucratic red-tape.”

While a year-long review of the Army’s diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems going back to 2001 was completed, McHugh did not reveal the findings of the research.

The review was prompted in part by accusations last year that a mental-health screening team at Madigan Army Medical Center has reversed diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder “after considering affiliated Army retirement and benefit costs.”

“This effort in part began after several issues were raised about the inconsistencies with PTSD diagnosis,” McHugh said.

US Senator Patty Murray of Washington state, who pushed for the review at the base where two soldiers are being held pending courts martial for shootings in which lawyers or the military have suggested PTSD may have been a factor, said Monday’s announcement did not do enough.

“While I’m pleased that the Army has announced they have completed this study, it’s far more important that they take quick action to remedy the problem,” said US Senator Patty Murray of Washington state. Murray pushed for the review at the base, where two soldiers are being held pending courts martial for shootings. Lawyers in the cases of both shootings have suggested that PTSD may have been a factor in the violence. Murray said that McHugh’s statement on Monday wasn’t good enough.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, located in Tacoma, Washington is one of the largest military bases in the country. Currently, the soldiers being held on courts martial at the base are the aforementioned Robert Bales.

Bales, the 39-year-old father of two, is a decorated combat veteran who was accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians. According to reports, Bales served four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, left his base in the middle of the night and went on a shooting spree. Nine of his victims were children.

Bales’ lawyers said in January that the staff sergeant had been diagnosed with PTSD and a brain injury before he was deployed, but he was sent on tour anyway. He could face the death penalty, the first military execution since 1961.

Also being held is John Russell, 48. Russell reportedly killed five fellow servicemen at a military counseling center in Iraq in 2009. The military believes that the violence was triggered by combat stress.

What could the military do to “build a more resilient soldier”? Do you think soldiers with PTSD should be deployed?

[Image via Shutterstock]

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