Washington, Sep 28 (IANS/RIA Novosti) The US Army put normal operations on hold Thursday in a service-wide “stand-down” for a day of mandatory suicide prevention training to try and combat record numbers of suicides among active-duty troops.
“The nation has asked our soldiers to carry a heavy load over the last 11 years, and they have not failed,” Sgt. Maj. Raymond Chandler told a news conference Wednesday on the eve of the training. “But suicide is an enemy we have yet to defeat.”
According to army figures, a record 26 soldiers died in probable suicides in July.
The army has reported 116 suicides among active-duty soldiers through the end of July this year, threatening to surpass the 167 reported suicides in 2011.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that lowering the military’s high suicide rate is a top priority.
Experts believe many military suicides are related to cumulative stress from repeated combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During Thursday’s “stand-down,” troops were not to perform their usual duties to attend training sessions at army posts around the world aimed at educating them about the various behavioural health programmes available.
The suicide training activities are open to troops’ families as well as the army’s civilian employees.