Army Stands Up Task Force to Prevent Suicides

U.S. Army

March 6, 2009 – Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire has been selected to head up a new task force to prevent suicides in the Army.

“Suicide is a multi-dimensional problem and as such will take a multi-disciplinary approach to dealing with it,” Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli said Thursday at a Blogger’s Roundtable before announcing the new task force.

In keeping with the complexity of the problem, the task force will have members from a range of staff sections and functional areas. McGuire, who was promoted to brigadier general Dec. 2, is a military police officer who for the past year has served as director of senior leader development for Department of the Army.

“My charter is to truly look … across all disciplines, so in the end, that leader, that commander can have a menu of tools, of training programs and experts that he can turn to and know how to best employ them,” McGuire said.

Her task force will include representation from the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for G-1 (Personnel) and Human Resources Command. It will have representatives from the Provost Marshal’s Office and from the Army Medical Department. It will also coordinate closely with the Chief of Chaplain’s Office and other staff areas, said Lt. Col. Leo Ruth, a member of the new task force.

Ruth said the task force will examine all of the Army’s recent suicide cases and try to find “commonalities.”

“The whole idea … is to identify a common theme,” Ruth said.

“We may not find a trend,” Ruth said, but added that the task force “owed it to leadership” to examine demographics such as age and deployment history to see if any trends exist.

The task force will report to Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, Ruth said. Its recommendations will first be looked at by a senior officer steering committee, he explained. The ultimate product, he said, will be a Suicide Prevention Campaign Plan.

The task force will only form the genesis of the campaign plan, Ruth said, stressing that the task force is a temporary organization.

The Army has also partnered with the National Institute of Mental Health for a long-range study to determine the causes of suicide in the Army.

(For more information on suicide prevention and the recent Bloggers Roundtable, see related article: “Chain teaching to follow Army ‘stand down’ for suicide prevention.”)

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