The Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum last week on the next steps on suicide prevention in the military.
“Even one suicide is too many, and we will exhaust every effort to promote the wellness, health, and morale of our total force,” said Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
For many, the plan seems to be more paperwork and studies and less immediate implementation.
“We hear the rhetoric all the time, but we need action,” said Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton. “They’ve been sitting on their hands and more Americans die every day as a result.”
In 2021, 519 U.S. service members died by suicide. Last year, three sailors died by suicide in a single week. In December, four sailors in Norfolk died by suicide.
The Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee visited a range of military installations in the past year, both in the United States and outside the continental United States and received input through focus groups and individual interviews.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III approved a two-phase approach based on SPRIRC’s report.
In the first phase, Secretary Austin approved the immediate implementation of the recommendations addressing service member well-being and access to behavioral and mental health care based on existing authorities and available resources, with adjustments made as appropriate, with a focus on rapid and effective implementation.
In the second phase, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, will establish a Suicide Prevention Implementation Working Group as the primary body to:
- assess the advisability and feasibility of implementing each of the remaining recommendations;
- identify specific policy and program changes needed to implement each remaining recommendation, as appropriate;
- provide cost and manpower estimates required to implement each remaining recommendation;
- provide an estimated timeline to implement each remaining recommendation;
- identify barriers to implementing the remaining recommendations, if any; and
- to the extent applicable, identify recommendations for which implementation can be synchronized with current department prevention activities and capabilities resulting from the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military.
The memorandum on the next steps on suicide prevention in the military can be found here.