DoD, Journal Focus on Suicide Prevention

The influential British medical journal The Lancet and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta focused on the same issue last week: preventing suicide. Panetta called for the Defense Department to "break new ground in understanding the human mind and human emotion," while The Lancet published three reviews of the current state of knowledge about suicide among adolescents and young men and prevention by limiting access to highly lethal means of suicide, such as guns in richer countries and pesticides in rural areas of developing countries, especially in Asia.

Suicide is a major public health problem, according to the journal, which reports the annual death toll is 900,000 and 84 percent of these suicides take place in low-income and middle-income countries. Complicating the prevention challenge in those countries is a lack of data on suicide and effective prevention strategies, and some prevention strategies that show promise in rich countries are prohibitively expensive for poorer ones, the journal’s staff noted in an editorial. "Improving suicide prevention globally will require a greater understanding of why and how people decide to take their own lives in different settings. Additionally, the decriminalisation of suicide will help destigmatise this behaviour and help those in distress to come forward," it says.

Calling service members' and veterans' suicides "perhaps the most frustrating challenge I've come across," Panetta called for DoD to increase research on suicide prevention and also improve the quality of behavioral health care and access to it, according to Karen Parrish's report on his speech for the American Forces Press Service. He also said the threat of suicide will exist long after American forces' combat ends in Afghanistan, saying, "More than half of those who have committed suicide in the military have no history of deployment. So we're dealing with broader societal issues. Substance abuse, financial distress, and relationship problems -- the risk factors for suicide -- also reflect problems ... that will endure beyond war."

Posted by Jerry Laws on Jun 25, 2012