DOD Officials Urge Troops to Seek Mental Health Help Without Fear
Department of Defense
BY C. TODD LOPEZ
May 28, 2019
''It really speaks to ... interaction with those line commanders,'' Colston said. ''That's vitally important, and really getting a pulse of the unit.''
Soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo. watch troop movements during Exercise Green Flag West 13-2 at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 7, 2012.In 2018, more than 320 active duty service members committed suicide. Among reserve component service members, 144 did the same. One lawmaker called it ''an epidemic.''
One problem that may contribute to suicide numbers is a reticence to seek assistance from mental health providers due to fears that such help may damage careers, especially when it comes to security clearances. But that fear is unfounded, one defense leader told lawmakers May 21.
''We absolutely need to get the word out that it's almost impossible to lose your security clearance from endorsing a mental health history on your SF-86 question 21,'' said Navy Capt. (Dr.) Mike Colston, the Defense Department's director of mental health policy and oversight. ''We really have data — [this has happened to] a couple dozen out of nearly 10 million security clearances,'' Colston said. ''So when we look at the process of 'Let's get down to the data,' are we going to kick you out for having a mental health condition? Probably not.''
Elizabeth P. Van Winkle, executive director of DOD's Office of Force Resiliency, told lawmakers during the joint hearing of the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on military personnel and the House Veterans Affairs Committee's health subcommittee that solving suicide is a shared challenge in both the military and civilian societies.
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As of the 3rd quarter of 2018, according to the DOD, there were 231 suicides among "active" and 144 among reserves. The numbers do not add up. So far, the report for all of 2018 has not been found, but I will keep looking because the DOD is mandated by Congress to provide the reports. Wonder if they ever figured out what we knew back in 2009? Safe bet they did not since they kept doing it.