Adm. Mullen: Suicide Rate Will Get Worse

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff addresses soldiers assigned to Fort Bragg. N.C. DoD photo by Specialist Chad J. McNeeley.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told NPR’s Scott Simon Saturday morning in a radio interview with his wife Deborah that the military suicide rate is increasing and he expects will only get worse before it gets better.

Mullen said that the number of suicides has doubled in number since 2004 and the military suicide rate now exceeds that of the civilian population. He said one reason appears to be the stress of multiple deployments, yet a full third of those who killed themselves had not deployed.

Stigma is also blamed. Asking for help is still seen as a weakness among “tough” warriors. Mullen said no where else is it so important that military leaders step up and “ask for help” to  show that it is not a weakness but a strength to ask for aid.

Deborah Mullen with members of the Gold Star Wives of America, May 2010. DoD photo Specialist Chad J. McNeeley.

“I don’t think they’ll ever leave the war behind,” said Deborah Mullen. She is working with families to better educate spouses, parents and others to understand the warning signs of suicide and to seek help.She worries that OEF/OIF veterans are becoming homeless sooner and at a faster rate than Vietnam veterans. Mrs. Mullen said what’s new is the number of homeless women veterans who have children.

To listen to the NPR interview with Adm. Mullen and Mrs. Mullen click here.

To get immediate help for yourself or a service member, call 800-273-8255. More information is available on VA Suicide Prevention Hot Line.

Here are some of the signs (from the VA Suicide Prevention web site) that someone may be contemplating suicide:

  • Talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
  • Trying to get pills, guns, or other ways to harm oneself
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting in a reckless or risky way
  • Feeling trapped, like there is no way out
  • Saying or feeling there’s no reason for living.

The Department of Defense Suicide Outreach includes links that navigate you to the nearest help. There’s also a self assessment tool to better understand your risk factors. And “it’s for your eyes only.”

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