For the family and friends of service members who died by suicide,
Memorial Day can be not only a solemn day, but also a painful reminder that
military suicides are not treated the same as combat deaths. Kim Ruocco, the
national director of suicide education and outreach at Tragedy Assistance
Program for Survivors, or TAPS, has experienced this isolating grief
firsthand. This weekend, she is
bringing together about 100 suicide survivors at TAPS' annual Memorial Day weekend National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors. "[Suicide survivors] are surrounded by people whose loved ones were killed in action," Ruocco said. "There's a real sense that their loved one's death was not an honorable death."
In 2011, 301 active-duty service members died by suicide, according to the Department of Defense. More than half of those deaths occurred in the Army, where the suicide rate last year was projected at 24.1 per 100,000, outpacing the national rate adjusted for the comparison of 18.6 people per 100,000. A study released earlier this year by the U.S. Army Public Health Command found that the number of active-duty soldiers who committed suicide increased 80 percent between 2004 and 2008.
Though the Department of Defense has worked to de-stigmatize mental illness in recent years through various initiatives and training programs, challenges remain. On Thursday, Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commanding general of Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, retracted a blog piece he posted on Jan. 19 in which he called suicide "an absolutely selfish act". "I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess," he wrote.
Obviously what is needed here are people who can understand and help those who are left behind to cope with these tragedies. Depending on the government would seem to be a futile exercise. So, as usual, instead of waiting for somebody else to work from the top down, we need to work from the ground up.
You're ministers. People need you. It is entirely possible that this is why our Father guided you to this ministry and this forum. Are we an army of our Father's servants or just a chat room? Don't answer here. Answer out there.
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.