There is no single solution to reverse the rise in soldier suicides.
Confronted by a spate of suicides among redeploying air defenders when he arrived at Fort Bliss in July 2010, Pittard launched the “No Preventable Soldier Deaths” campaign. The goal, he explained, was to prevent not only suicides, but also high-risk behaviors that can lead to drug overdoses, motorcycle and vehicle accidents, and other preventable fatalities.
That comprehensive campaign includes more than 30 different initiatives but all are focused on reducing risky behavior and creating a culture where seeking help is encouraged. Some of the steps taken:
- Pittard began assigning accountability for preventable deaths, holding leaders accountable for their soldiers, and soldiers accountable for themselves and their battle buddies.
- All new arrivals to Fort Bliss get comprehensive screenings at the Wellness Fusion Center.
- Pittard made the Army’s Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training mandatory for all incoming soldiers.
- Fort Bliss requires that every unit down to company level have a certified master resilience trainer within its ranks. (Current Army policy requires one at the battalion level.)
- Pittard cut off Wi-Fi reception in the barracks so soldiers would congregate at designated hot spots and reintroduced the old concept of day rooms so soldiers would hang out together.
- Pittard began allowing members of the El Paso community just outside Fort Bliss’ gates to come on post simply by showing a driver’s license so soldiers were less isolated from the American people they serve.
- He added bike and walking paths and gathering places, and more than 10,000 trees planted to encourage soldiers to commune with nature and each other.
The payoff has been that Fort Bliss went 120 straight days without a preventable soldier death from September through January. This article originally appeared on defense.gov. For more information on suicide awareness and prevention, visit health.mil.