The U.S. Army reported a record number of suicides Thursday for a single month--32 in June--between both active and non-active soldiers. In an effort to combat the troubling data, Army officials have launched a new suicide prevention video, "Shoulder to Shoulder: I Will Never Quit On Life."
It marks the second such video effort from the U.S. Army, and features vignettes and testimonials of real soldiers who received help for psychological distress or who assisted others in need. When asked if he thought the video would have an impact, Colonel Chris Philbrick, director of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force said absolutely, and called it a valuable tool that will improve the ability to reach out and communicate with the entire Army family.
Recognizing a potential mistake in focusing prior efforts on active duty, Philbrick said, "Our suicide prevention efforts must be directed at all members of the Army, our soldiers, Army civilians and families."
The first video, released in 2008, used a mix of real soldiers and actors portraying soldiers, and according to officials, lacked a serious connection with those on the front lines. When pressed for more detail about the first video's failings, Philbrick bluntly said, "It sucked" and called it "Pentagon speak."
While officials could not give any specific cause or reason for the recent jump in suicides, they pointed to the continued stress on the force as a contributing factor.
Despite the June numbers, Philbrick insisted, "The opportunities for someone to raise their hand and say 'I need help' and to get them that help is improving each and every day when you seek care, you get better."
Although he's optimistic about the video's chances for success, Philbrick conceded, "The crucial elements are still caring, concern and decisive leadership. There will never be a substitute for a non-commissioned officer, first-line supervisor or friend who knows when a person is suffering and has the moral courage to act and get that individual the help they need. That ability to make a positive difference is the best method to render effective suicide prevention in the Army."