The Army is holding a servicewide stand-down Thursday for a day of mandatory training aimed at combating record numbers of suicides among active-duty troops.
The stand-down was ordered by Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III after figures in July showed 26 soldiers died in probable suicides, a record high. The Army has reported 116 suicides among active-duty soldiers through the end of July, a rate that threatens to surpass the 167 reported in 2011.
“The Army has decided that this issue is so important to us that we’re going to devote an entire day . . . that was otherwise devoted to something else and say ‘That’s not as important as this,’ ” Sgt. Maj. Raymond Chandler III, the top non-commissioned officer in the Army, told reporters Wednesday.
Lowering the high rate of suicide in the military has been declared a top priority by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who has described the problem as “perhaps the most frustrating challenge” he has faced since taking up his post last year.
The high numbers reflect in part the stress on the force after more than a decade of lengthy and multiple deployments for many troops in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The training to be held at Army posts around the world Thursday is meant to help soldiers, Army civilians and family members recognize signs of suicidal behavior and inform them about intervention strategies and how to refer individuals for care.
“We need everyone to get involved — there is no room for bystanders,” the Army said in a proclamation signed by Chandler, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
Information about the Army’s Suicide Prevention Program can be found at www.preventsuicide.army.mil.