4 Soldiers Succumbed to Suicide Last Month in Alaska
Suicide rates among military members remain a problem in America.
The Armed Forces have implemented mental health screening programs.
Alaskan bases are tougher for those struggling with mental health issues.
Four soldiers killed themselves in Alaska in October.
(NewsReady.com) – The suicide rates among members and veterans of the Armed Forces remain one of the most persistent issues facing the country. For years, veterans groups ran campaigns centered around the number 22, an average estimate of how many former and active duty members take their lives each day. While the numbers have fallen, one is still too many.
Military members who serve in Alaska are at an even greater risk of suicide. Sadly, members of the Army ended their lives in the state last month.
Four Lives Lost
Military.com reported that four soldiers stationed in Alaska with the 11th Airborne Division committed suicide in October. The news comes after two other soldiers in the division took their own lives earlier this year.
Command Sgt. Maj. Vern Daley and Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler wrote a letter to the 11th Airborne Division to inform them of the deaths. They said they “lost four Arctic Angels in the past 30 days to the enemy of despair.”
Soldiers in Alaska face extra challenges because of the extreme weather conditions. One is the temperature, which can drop to negative 50 degrees. The areas surrounding the Army’s Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage are desolate, so soldiers in the area don’t have access to as many amenities.
An anonymous soldier told the website how the unit is having a tough time dealing with one of the suicides. “It was shocking, and we quickly went back to training. There wasn’t a lot of mourning time,” they said.
However, it isn’t clear whether those factors contributed to the six suicides in the 11th Airborne Division this year.
In May, the Army sent a group of 40 counselors and chaplains to its bases in the state after a USA TODAY report indicated soldiers who were having suicidal thoughts were waiting weeks to see someone. The service also implemented a number of programs to deal with the crisis. For example, soldiers have to attend a mandatory counseling session every year.
It seemed the initiatives were working. In October, there was only one confirmed suicide in Alaska, down from 17 the previous year. The most recent deaths marked an unexpected surge. It’s unclear if the Army intends to make any changes in the wake of the recent spike in deaths.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, dial 9-8-8 to reach the national helpline 24/7.
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