News Details

Suicide among military-connected youth a growing concern

By Steve DeVane

Published: Friday 15 November, 2013

School officials say they know suicide among students with military ties is a problem, even without research to show it.

Three staff members from Cumberland County schools led a workshop on suicide prevention among military students Thursday during the fourth annual Forward March conference at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church. The meeting, which continues today, focuses on challenges faced by military families.

Anna Rodriguez, the military child and family liaison for the school system, said she did research on the Internet and called Fort Bragg officials looking for data on the number of suicides by students connected to the military.

"There isn't any," she said.

Rodriguez said four of the 11,572 military-connected students in Cumberland County schools killed themselves in 2013. She said school officials are concerned, even though that number is considered statistically insignificant.

"It is a real issue," she said.

Joyce Wessel Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association, said Congress is expected to tell the Department of Defense to study suicides among the families of military troops.

Raezer, who attended the workshop, said versions of the National Defense Authorization Act passed by both the House and Senate include a provision for the Pentagon to count the suicides. The final bill has not been approved.

Raezer said after the meeting that information was needed to determine if there are clusters of suicides in a particular place.

"Anecdotally, we're hearing there are military family suicides, but we don't have data," she said.

Research among all young people in North Carolina shows that 19.3 percent have seriously considered killing themselves and 14.5 percent have made plans on how to commit suicide, Rodriguez said. Depression was common among those who considered or planned suicide, she said.

Rodriguez said many signs of depression - long and frequent sadness, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness and guilt - can be found in children with a parent who is deployed.

Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commander of Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps, opened the conference with a speech focusing on how community connections make the post ready and resilient. He talked about nine programs that support soldiers and their families.

Soldier 360 is a five-day program that helps senior leaders understand themselves and their soldiers, Anderson said. Many noncommissioned officers will admit they have difficulty knowing when a soldier is contemplating suicide, he said.

Some soldiers with 20 years of experience say Soldier 360 is the best program they've attended, Anderson said. USO-North Carolina now pays for the program, which no longer is federally funded, he said.

Anderson said when the government cuts funding for needed programs, Fort Bragg has to find the money elsewhere.

"We should not be a charitable organization, I do not believe," he said.

Original Article