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Army Officials Concerned About Rise In Soldier Suicides

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FORT BRAGG — Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the Army behind accidents. The number of deaths is not as high as it is in the civilian world, but Army leaders are still concerned.

AtFort Bragg, three soldiers have committed suicide in the last months. Last year, 65 soldiers committed suicide Armywide.

The Pentagon says the commanders must make it a point to confront the issue. The Air Force has used a similar approach to lower its suicide rate.

"There is a high degree of negative stigma associated with individuals coming in for help, saysPope AirmanMaj. Rick DeLeon. "Part of it is the macho culture of the military, and I think a part of it is a natural reluctance for individuals to admit that they have mental health issues."

The Army chief of staff wants commanders to erase that stigma so soldiers will not feel it is a sign of weakness to ask for help. Fort Bragg officials say they strive for open communication.

"We don't just wait for the soldier to come to us," says Fort Bragg spokesman Jim Hinnant. "We actively try to go to the soldier if we think there might be a problem."

At Pope Air Force Base, there has not been an Airman suicide in six years. They have found success by encouraging people to seek help and by encouraging superiors and peers to get to know each other.

"They will be the first ones to notice a change, to notice a decline in performance and behavior and be the ones to intervene immediately," says soldier Michelle Wilson.

Suicide prevention training is required annually at Pope Air Force Base and Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg also distributes cards with warning signs so soldiers will know what to look for.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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