Blumenthal Calls on Department of Defense to Implement Suicide Prevention Measures

(Hartford, CT) – Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today wrote to the Department of Defense (DOD) urging them to implement the recommendations made by the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide that the DOD has been studying for over a year. These recommendations seek to reduce the number of suicides in the military as the Army recently experienced an all-time high in the month of July.

In the letter, addressed to the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Dr. Clifford L. Stanley, Blumenthal further requested that the DOD provide an update of suicide statistics by Service in the final report of the Task Force along with additional suicide mortality rates among those recently discharged from service. 

In the letter, Blumenthal says “Suicide rates among military personnel have continued to climb despite significant efforts and multiple programs within the Department of Defense for suicide prevention and intervention. The Army’s recent announcement of 32 suicides in July – the highest on record – is a tragedy which demonstrates that the demanding challenge of suicide prevention continues to exceed the programs and policies currently in place. Given our shared concern for the welfare of our men and women in uniform, I respectfully request the immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces.” 

The congressionally-mandated Task Force was established to address the growing rate of suicide among members of the armed services. Over the first seven months of 2011, about 160 active duty and reserve soldiers committed suicide. The Army’s suicide rate has increased every year between 2004 and 2010.

Blumenthal serves as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The full text of the letter follows:

Dr. Clifford L. Stanley
Under Secretary for Personnel & Readiness
Department of Defense

Dear Dr. Stanley,

As you are aware, suicide rates among military personnel have continued to climb despite significant efforts and programs within the Department of Defense for suicide prevention and intervention.  The Army’s recent announcement of 32 suicides in July – the highest on record – is a tragedy which demonstrates that the demanding challenge of suicide prevention continues to exceed the programs and policies currently in place. Given our shared concern for the welfare of our men and women in uniform, I respectfully request the immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces.

Two years have now elapsed since the Task Force was established and the Department of Defense has spent a year studying the 76 targeted recommendations made in the Final Report of the Task Force. These recommendations build on the hard work being done by the Services.  I urge you to make the implementation of these recommendations your highest priority. I also ask that your office provide an update on the suicide statistics by Service in the Final Report of the Department of Defense Task Force (pg.15-33) and provide any additional information you may have on the suicide mortality rates among those recently discharged from military service.

Congress has an equally important role to play in the implementation of these recommendations, such as balancing uniformed end-strength with operational requirements and ensuring sufficient dwell time to reduce the stress on the force and military families. Please be assured you have my full support in advancing these strategic initiatives in the prevention of suicide among military personnel. 

I look forward to working with you to implement the recommendations of the Task Force and to reviewing the additional information I have requested. 

Sincerely, 

Richard Blumenthal

United States Senate

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