By Dan Elliott
The Associated Press
DENVER — A third of military personnel who committed suicide last year had told at least one person they planned to take their own lives, a newly released Defense Department report says.
Nearly half went to see medical personnel, behavioral health specialists, chaplains or other service providers sometime in the 90 days before they died, according to the 2010 Department of Defense Suicide Event Report.
That doesn’t necessarily reflect a failure in the Defense Department suicide prevention program, said Richard McKeon, chief of the Suicide Prevention Branch at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“It’s not that some person blew it,” McKeon said Thursday. But physical and behavior health care personnel, counselors and other providers need to monitor their programs and look for improvements, he said.
“(Providers) need to be aware of what those opportunities are, and need to be regularly evaluating their efforts on what is working or what is not,” McKeon said.
The 250-page report released late Wednesday analyzes 295 confirmed or “strongly suspected” suicides that were reported last year, down from 309 the year before. Caucasian service members under age 25 and in the lower ranks were at the highest risk, the same as the year before.
The 2010 total includes active-duty, reserve and National Guard personnel. It reflects a slight downward revision from the 301 suicides the Defense Department reported in January, which included about 70 that were still under investigation.
The Defense Department has been coping with rising suicide numbers during its protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Individual service branches have tracked suicides for years, and in 2008, the Defense Department began using a standard form for collecting information called the Department of Defense Suicide Event Report or DoDSER.
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