Soldier suicide rate continues to climb

soldierI’ve been wanting to devote some time to blogging about this but I fear that I can’t. But I just read on CBS News that soldier suicides are still rising at an alarming rate. An estimated 128 troops killed themselves in 2008 and apparently February has seen 18 soldier suicides. (That figure may increase because some suicides are suspected but not immediately confirmed.) The Army released announced in February that at least 24 soldier deaths had been ruled as suicides.

The Army normally releases figures on self-inflicted deaths only once a year. But due to the large number of 24 suspected in January, officials decided to announce monthly figures to focus attention on the problem and on prevention programs available.

–snip–

Speaking by telephone to a group of bloggers, Chiarelli noted that officials already have bolstered suicide prevention programs and are having special training sessions this month and next, but he said no one thing can solve the problem.

The military has added mental health staff, operates hotlines for troops to call, and has programs to counter stress on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was no breakdown on how many of the suicides happened at the warfront.

It’s a shame that so many troops had to lose their lives for the Army to get a wake up call on bolstering suicide prevention and mental health programs. My guess is suffering from PTSD also plays a part in pushing soldiers over the edge.

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Golden Gate Bridge Barrier Update

The San Francisco Chronicle’s site has an update on the GGB barrier debate. Unfortunately, most people don’t want any kind of barrier at all. However, of the design options, the net is proving to be the most popular. Likely because it doesn’t affect the aesthetics of the bridge by much and it is still considered a suicide prevention mechanism.

Golden Gate Bridge net barrierI’d initially cited concerns about how jumpers would be pulled out of the net. Rachael Gordon, the Chronicle’s staff writer, got chief engineer Denis Mulligan to provide an answer:

For starters, he said, once someone jumps over the Art Deco span’s 4-foot railing, it could take rescuers several hours to get to the scene to retrieve the person from the net, which essentially would envelop the person and make it difficult but still possible to clamber out.

“It wouldn’t be like a trampoline, that once you jump onto, it would be easy to jump off,” Mulligan said. But, he added, “If you’re very agile, very strong and focused, you may be able to climb out.”

I hope it’s as hard to climb out of as Mulligan cites. Just the wait to be rescued alone might get jumpers to think twice about trying again. But here’s the process in more detail:

During a rescue operation from the net, authorities would shut down a lane of traffic. A specialized vehicle, called a “snooper” truck, would be brought in. Outfitted with a mechanical arm similar to a cherry picker used by utility crews, two specially trained rescue workers would be lowered down to the net in a bucket to pull the person out.

Authorities said they would have to convince pranksters and daredevils that jumping into the net would not be a pleasant experience.

“It would hurt,” Mulligan said of the 20-foot drop into a net made out of marine-grade stainless steel coated in plastic.

This article also uses another bridge — a former suicide hotspot — as an example to show that suicides can be prevented.

In Switzerland, researchers found that just the presence of the net stopped people from even trying to jump off the Munster Terrace, a medieval cathedral located in the old section of Bern, from which two or three people had been leaping to their deaths every year. They also found that the net did not shift suicides to other locations.

And that the implementation of barriers in other places have also proven successful:

Other well-known jump spots, among them the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Empire State Building in New York City, were long ago outfitted with suicide barriers. Like the net attached to the Gothic cathedral in Bern, studies have shown them effective in thwarting impulsive suicide attempts.

I’m not so idealistic to think barriers will keep suicidal people from committing suicide. Rather, I think they’re worth erecting for “thwarting impulsive suicide attempts.” Who knows how many people are still alive as a result?


The general public is welcome to vote for a barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge and provide additional comments (ie, you don’t need to be from California or San Francisco). Visit the Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Deterrent Barrier site to make your opinion known on this issue.

Scary statistic

Here's one scary statistic:

In a study, the first of its kind, scientists have found that websites encouraging suicide pop up more frequently in Internet search engines than those which aim to prevent it.

The story, reported by the Times of India, must be speaking of Web sites outside of the U.S. because I sure can't find such a phenomenon on U.S. sites. (Yes, yes, I've previously tried.)

"Lies, damned lies, and statistics":

While one in five sites that popped up on the click of a mouse were dedicated suicide sites, and over 50% of them encouraged, promoted or facilitated suicide. Over 43 of the websites studied contained personal accounts of suicide methods. In contrast, only 13% focused on suicide prevention or offered support, while another 12% actively discouraged suicide.

The article mentions that the three highest ranked sites were pro-suicide. The top four sites gave detailed information on various ways to commit suicide. Most of these pro-suicide hits were found via Google and Yahoo. MSN had the highest hits of prevention and support sites.

As I resist the urge not to investigate the data further, I think of a Web site I was introduced to recently called everyminute.org. According to the site, about 30,000 people commit suicide in the U.S. annually. Suicide also is the second highest cause of death of those in the 25–34 age range. Untreated mental illness tends to play a big role in suicides. This statistic makes me glad that my mental illness is being treated, however, I still struggle with suicidal thoughts (I have lately). The silver lining in this is that I have a higher chance of overcoming my suicidal actions and behavior thanks to my counseling, medication, and self-education via this blog and the blogs of others.

Centre Daily Letter to the Editor

I just found this letter to the editor originally published in the Centre Daily. I like to highlight some of the few letters that address the media's missed opportunities to educate the public about suicide.

Read the rest of this entry »