In the wake of three tragic suicides at Fort Cavazos, Texas, within a two-week span, the spotlight has once again turned to the alarming issue of military suicides. These recent deaths are not isolated incidents; internal documents reviewed by Military.com reveal that, on average, at least two soldiers have taken their own lives each week this year, spanning part-time components and active duty bases across the service.
Army’s Delayed Suicide Prevention Plan Raises Concerns
According to confidential documents obtained by Military News, in August 25, 2023, in a troubling revelation, three soldiers stationed at Fort Cavazos, Texas, have tragically taken their own lives in the past two weeks, underscoring a deeply concerning trend. This unsettling pattern isn’t unique to Fort Cavazos; across both part-time and active-duty components at various military bases, an average of at least two soldiers has lost their lives to suicide each week this year.
Three years ago, the U.S. Army embarked on crafting a comprehensive policy to establish its first major suicide prevention plan doctrine. This initiative, eagerly anticipated and highlighted before Congress in May, aimed to address the alarming rise in soldier suicides. However, the Army recently quietly unveiled this doctrine, three years behind schedule and with significant shortcomings.
Expected to take effect on September 8th, the new policy lacks clear guidance for service members on how to respond when a fellow soldier is experiencing declining mental health or suicidal thoughts, despite initial promises of providing much-needed.
Shortcomings in Suicide Prevention Plan Doctrine
In a report stated by Flipboard, while the newly released doctrine does provide insight into warning signs and risk factors associated with suicide, it falls short in offering specific guidance on suicide prevention plan and intervention. Instead of offering a comprehensive approach, it focuses on identifying the myriad factors influencing individuals, leaving junior leaders to navigate these complex situations with minimal formal training.
This lack of universal guidelines has resulted in units devising their own ad hoc approaches, ultimately jeopardizing the well-being of soldiers in need. As the Army grapples with the persistent issue of suicide among its ranks, the release of this long-anticipated doctrine of suicide prevention plan raises questions about its effectiveness and its ability to provide tangible solutions for preventing soldier suicides.
With suicide by self-inflicted gunshot wound being the most common method among soldiers, the need for clearer, more actionable guidelines is urgent. The Army’s journey to combatting soldier suicides continues, with many anxiously awaiting more comprehensive and effective strategies such as imposing suicide prevention plan to protect those who serve their nation.