FORT CARSON, Colo. – The suicide rate among soldiers at Fort Carson is on track to drop by about 45 percent this year compared with 2008, as the U.S. military takes steps to ease what has been an increasing problem.
Commanders at the Colorado Army post said Wednesday they were trying to determine reasons for the decline and cautioned the rate could climb in the months ahead.
"There is not a silver bullet," post commander Maj. Gen. David G. Perkins told a meeting of military and civilian mental health experts. "I can't point to one single thing."
However, a campaign to make mental health experts more accessible to soldiers and to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help might be among the factors behind the drop, said Brig. Gen. Jim Pasquarette, deputy commanding general for support at the base.
Most of the Fort Carson soldiers who recently took their own lives were considered good soldiers, Perkins said. Few had problems with drugs or alcohol. Three-quarters had no criminal record in the Army, and 85 percent had no financial problems.
"It's the ones who have done everything right .... They're the good guys," he said.
Suicide rates are measured in deaths per 100,000 people.
Fort Carson's rate was 44 per 100,000 in 2008, and this year is on track to total 25 per 100,000, Pasquarette said. The figures include all soldiers assigned to the post, whether they commit suicide overseas or at home.
The Army's overall suicide rate is about 22 per 100,000.
The Defense Department has been rushing to combat rising numbers of suicides. More than 1,100 servicemen and women killed themselves between 2005 and 2009, and the overall numbers are rising this year.
A report commissioned by Congress and released last week said the Pentagon should create a high-level office to establish strategy and coordinate suicide prevention efforts across the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force.
Another report issued by the Army in July said commanders need to address a broad range of risk-taking behavior to reduce the suicide rate.
In El Paso County, which includes most of the offices and housing at Fort Carson, the suicide rate is about 26 per 100,000, Perkins said.