by: Laura Captari
Eight. That’s the number of U.S. troops who attempt suicide every single day. Since 2006, suicide rates in the military have jumped significantly. In June of 2012, the Pentagon reported 154 suicides in 155 days in the Army alone—one suicide a day, not including military family members or non-activated National Guard/Reserves.
This number far outweighs—by 50 percent—the number of U.S. troops killed in action in Afghanistan this year.
FOX News reports: “The numbers reflect a military burdened with wartime demands from Iraq and Afghanistan that have taken a greater toll than foreseen a decade ago. The military also is struggling with increased sexual assaults, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and other misbehavior.”
The suicide crisis is “one of the most complex and urgent problems” the military is facing, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Record numbers of troops are returning from overseas deployment, carrying the wounds of traumatic exposure. Reintegration challenges, an uncertain economy and family issues only exacerbate the prevalence of posttraumatic stress.
And the tragedy is this: Many U.S. troops feel that seeking out help for mental health challenges is shameful and unacceptable. After all, no one wants to be seen as a “wimp.” To some, suicide becomes the only viable option in the midst of isolation, trauma and hopelessness.
“This is an urgent time in the life of our military,” Major General Dees, AACC’s Military Director shares. “The unprecedented suicide rates, as well as challenging mental and behavioral health issues, need to be addressed now. We must get everything in the fight, including faith-based mental health resources. AACC members can play a tremendous role in this process, ultimately bringing the help, hope, and healing of Jesus to those who so desperately need it.”
At the AACC, we take this matter very seriously. In response to this critical issue, our organization has established a Military Counseling Initiative in order to:
- Call the 50,000 counselors and caregivers in our membership to action—standing in the gap to provide mental health care for our military
- Increase awareness about the priority and urgency of mental health needs among U.S. troops
- Provide training, resources and advocacy on behalf of military servicemen and women and their families from a faith-based perspective
- Network like-minded counselors and caregivers who are offering services in this area
The Military Counseling Initiative, a brand-new Division of the American Association of Christian Counselors, exists to equip Christian counselors, chaplains and caregivers to offer compassionate care and competent counsel for military service men and women and their families.
Speaking of the new Division, Dr. Eric Scalise, AACC’s Vice President for Professional Development shares, “There are thousands of dedicated men and women who faithfully serve in our nation’s military. They count the costs and put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedoms. They make the necessary sacrifices, some with their own lives. These are my heroes.
“As the father of twin sons who are Marines and combat veterans, I find myself having profound gratitude for such selfless courage and am deeply thankful for the safe return of each one. The Scriptures say, ‘Give to everyone what you owe them…if honor, then honor’ (Rom. 13:7). The Military Counseling Initiative was formed to be provide resources, support, encouragement and networking opportunities. What a blessing to be able to give something back in a tangible way to our active personnel, service veterans, family members, chaplains and the counseling community.”
Laura Captari serves as the Director of Professional and Public Relations at the American Association of Christian Counselors in Forest, VA. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.