September 10, 2012
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the launch of a new initiative intended to tackle the growing problem of suicides among Americans and the widely muffled rate of army suicides.
At a conference in Washington DC Monday, Sebelius spoke to what has come to be the third leading cause of death for Americans ages 15 to 24, overtaking deaths by homicide, combat and traffic accidents.
Specifically, Sebelius called attention to the 38 soldier suicides that took place in July, making it the deadliest month in terms of army suicide. She stated, “These deaths are especially heartbreaking because we know they are preventable.”
The speech centered around the announcement of $56 million in new grants aimed to support the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, an initiative she says will curb the epidemic, and hopefully create “a nation free from the tragic experience of suicide.”
The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention’s full September report states, “On average, between 2001 and 2009, more than 33,000 Americans died each year as a result of suicide, which is more than 1 person every 15 minutes.”
Gen. Ray Odierno told USA Today suicide is now the most common form of death in the Army.
In July, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed his grief to congress, stating, “That is an epidemic…Something’s wrong.”
The grant’s announcement follows another multi-million dollar solution that’s geared to keep soldiers’ minds off of taking their own lives. Last month the army awarded the Indiana University School of Medicine $3 million to develop a nasal spray that would “eclipse” suicidal thoughts.
So far this year there have been 116 deaths attributed to suicide compared to last year’s 95 during this same month.
The infographic below helps illustrate the devastating toll suicides have had on army personnel in the past months:
On July 4, the city of Austin held a concert and fireworks show in which the Symphony’s executive director cancelled scheduled speeches by veterans that would have brought the issue of military suicide to light. Calling the info the veterans would have made “a real downer,” the director stated, “I just couldn’t feel comfortable with the text; I just didn’t think it was appropriate for young children and people who might possibly be protecting their kids from thinking about these issues.”
As long as we keep looking the other way on this issue, the problem will never be remedied.