Tags: Special Operations | suicides | Joseph Votel | William McRaven

High Suicide Rate Prompts Spec Ops Leader to Go Public

Image: High Suicide Rate Prompts Spec Ops Leader to Go Public
Special Operations Command's Gen. Joseph Votel. (TSgt Angelita Lawrence - USSOCOM)

By    |   Tuesday, 10 Mar 2015 10:10 AM

Despite a decline in the number of suicides among members of the military's special operations community, the rate remains among the highest in the military, which prompted the leader of Special Operations Command to publicly disclose he and his family had sought counseling, reports The Daily Beast.

"I have, with my family, sought counseling and assistance. I did it an earlier time in my career, but it's been since 9/11, and I encourage everybody to do that," Special Operations Command's Gen. Joseph Votel admitted during a recent conference.

According to figures provided to The Daily Beast, the number of suicides fell from a high of 23 in 2012, to 18 last year.

The concern among the leadership of the Special Command was first expressed last year during a symposium held in Tampa.

"The last two years have been the highest rate of suicides we have had in the special operations community, and this year I am afraid we are on the path to break that," Adm. William McRaven, then-commander of U.S. Special Operations, cautioned last February, according to The Tampa Tribune.

"There is a lot of angst. There is a lot of pressure out there. My soldiers have been fighting for 12 to 13 years in hard combat. Hard combat. And anybody who has spent any time in this war has been changed by it. It's that simple," he added.

It was a message McRaven delivered to the Senate Armed Services Committee last March when he said that the "community's rate remained tragically steady," which was prompting U.S. Special Operations to redouble "our efforts to ensure that our leaders are fully engaged with their personnel."

Subsequently, he called on Congress to provide additional $48 million in funding to hire physical therapists, dietitians, sports psychologists and strength and conditioning specialists to work with troops in order to address the increasing rate of soldier suicides among those involved in special operations, which includes Navy SEALS, Army Rangers and Green Beret Special Forces, according to The Washington Post.

According to a 2014 survey conducted by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, 31 percent of members of the military overall said they had considered taking their own lives and 40 percent said they knew another veteran of their generation who had committed suicide.

In October, Navy Capt. Thomas Chaby, the director of the Preservation of the Force and Family, stressed the need to make the initiative a priority because of the unique challenges found among members of special operations elite forces and that "after 13 years of battle, we have assessed that our force is frayed," according to the Defense Department's news service.

But, he conceded, the stigma of mental health counseling remains a challenge.

"There's a culture in the military, and it extends into unit cultures," he said, adding that there is a need to "educate their leaders every chance they get and say, 'getting behavioral healthcare is a good thing.'"

The focus on suicide prevention has resulted in an increase in the number of special operations-specific behavioral health professionals "embedded" in Special Operations Command units.

According to The Daily Beast, there will be a total of 131 professionals embedded in 2015, more than double the number of 60 in 2013.

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The suicide rate in special operations remains among the highest in the military, which prompted the leader of Special Operations Command to publicly disclose he and his family had sought counseling, reports The Daily Beast.
Special Operations, suicides, Joseph Votel, William McRaven
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2015-10-10
Tuesday, 10 Mar 2015 10:10 AM
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