Friday, November 16, 2018

Mother Jones Reporting on Military Suicide? Seriously?

If Mother Jones is paying attention to military suicides, why haven't others?

I have to admit I am shocked at the depth in this report. Not the information, but the fact they covered so much in it. Back in 2012 when I wrote The Warrior Saw, Suicides After War, it took a long time to find everything, and I had the resources to do it within the thousands of reports on this site. 

While the average of military suicides has been around 500 a year since 2012, no one has really bothered to piece it all together. It looks like someone just made a tremendous effort to do just that.

There are many who were kicked out before they could kill themselves, and many more who did it afterwards. Many more attempted it, more than once and survivors were kicked out. 

Whenever there is an effort to put a number on what price is being paid, the cost of a human life, will never be measured in full, because of what is being paid by those left behind, and left out.

This is a long piece, but if you really want to know, go to the link and finish reading it.

The Pentagon Spent Millions to Prevent Suicides. But the Suicide Rate Went Up Instead.
Mother Jones
Dan Spinelli
November 13, 2018
“We started this office to prevent suicide,” said Jackie Garrick, DSPO’s founding director who now runs an organization for whistleblowers. “I’d still like to see us follow through and actually prevent suicide.”
The United States Department of Defense employs nearly three million people, but only nine of them are responsible for developing a suicide prevention strategy across the armed forces. They are the staff of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, the crown jewel of an Obama-era effort to respond to the burgeoning suicide rate among active duty personnel and overhaul the way the military had historically addressed the problem.

With $20 million in funding allocated by Congress shortly after its founding in 2011 and a mandate to modernize the way DoD prevents suicide among active-duty service members, DSPO has found itself increasingly generating more turmoil than solutions. A nasty internal squabble three years after its inception between the founding director and Pentagon higher-ups resulted in an uncomfortable leadership transition and months of employee complaints. A series of unexecuted or discontinued contracts have hurt staff morale and drawn the ire of lawmakers. Annual reports have been sporadic.

For more than a year, the office has gone without a permanent director, cycling through a series of temporary leaders—none of whom had a background in mental health treatment or suicide prevention. Oversight from either Congress or the Pentagon has been sparse. By 2014, DSPO had already bounced between four different chains of command within the Pentagon’s unwieldy bureaucracy. Having been founded initially as a policy office, DSPO at one point was reporting up to DoD’s human resources directorate.
As the founding director, Garrick with Army Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington, then the top-ranking military officer in the Office of Personnel and Readiness, convened periodic meetings with relevant leaders from the different branches of the armed forces to review suicide statistics and compare prevention initiatives. Nearly 900 different prevention programs existed at that point, and despite some successful outliers, many contained “inconsistencies, redundancies, and gaps in [their] approach,” Garrick later told Congress in a March 2013 hearing.
Since Franklin left for the VA after less than two years at DSPO, the vacancy has been filled by a series of acting directors. The Trump administration’s pace in filling key government posts means that DSPO has had virtually no oversight.

The Office of Personnel and Readiness that supervises DSPO has been substantially depleted in recent months. Once Robert Wilkie, the last permanent undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, was nominated to head the VA, Stephanie Barna became the sixth different person to lead the office in three years. Two other top positions, including the one Barna vacated, have been filled in a temporary capacity. (Gleason, the Pentagon spokesperson, said DoD is “in the process of assessing and interviewing the best qualified candidates” to take over the office.)

“If the Department of Defense thought it was a priority, they would have done something by now—but they have wars to fight,” a former senior DoD official said.

Seven years after its creation as a standalone office, DSPO still seems to be retracing its steps. Among the first things Garrick set out to do as director was evaluate suicide prevention programs across the military to eliminate redundancies, yet an official Pentagon document summarizing DSPO’s efforts said the office evaluated “all Service suicide prevention programs in 2018” and then “established a DoD wide metric model to evaluate suicide prevention efforts across the total force.” Garrick outlined this same plan in a report issued by DSPO in 2012 listing its annual activity, but no such report has been issued for five years, an oversight Gleason attributed to the office leveraging “other published documents such as the Quarterly Suicide Report, the DD Suicide Event Report, and our website to pass on suicide-related information.” Those quarterly suicide reports are at least two years behind schedule while DSPO’s social media presence—including a Twitter account with fewer than 600 followers—is limited at best. And, even as Congress has continued funneling more money toward the office, it still has just nine staffers, the same amount from Garrick’s first year as director.

Most importantly, the suicide rate among active-duty troops continues to rise. According to the most recent public figures, it is now at 21.1 deaths per 100,000 troops, a rate that is two-and-a-half percentage points higher than it was in 2011, the year DSPO was founded.
read more here

It may be a typo but when it is reported that the report is two years behind, it is not. The DOD releases Suicide Quarterly reports about a quarter behind. They should be releasing the third quarter suicide report next month.

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