Target: Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter
Goal: Provide more thorough suicide prevention training for military chaplains.
Military chaplains do not receive enough training on how to intervene if one of their soldiers is contemplating suicide, despite the fact that they are often the first line of defense against military suicide. This is a dearth of training that has very real life-and-death consequences. Demand that the United States military provide thorough suicide prevention training to its chaplains.
There is a suicide epidemic in America’s armed forces. After the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003, the rate of suicide in the military increased to twice the national average. The rate has since declined somewhat, but active-duty and discharged soldiers are still killing themselves at rates much higher than average.
Despite this epidemic, military chaplains, who soldiers often first go to with feelings of suicide, are woefully unprepared to intervene effectively. They do receive some suicide prevention training during their basic officer course, but according to a recent survey, 44 percent of active chaplains and 57 percent of chaplain assistants say it is not enough and that they do not feel properly equipped to effectively deal with the issue when it is brought to them.
If soldiers are going to go to chaplains to begin to work through any suicidal thoughts, the chaplains had better be prepared to help effectively. They can’t do that without the proper education and training. Sign the petition below to demand that the military provide more thorough training to chaplains on suicide prevention.
Dear Secretary Carter,
I am writing you today regarding the suicide epidemic currently impacting our armed forces. Despite the fact that many servicemen and women come first to chaplains to deal with thoughts of suicide, a majority of chaplains do not feel properly trained to help them. This should be corrected at once.
A survey of United States military chaplains recently released by the Rand Corporation shows that many of them possess negative views of therapy that prevent them from advocating to a soldier who comes to them for help with suicidal thoughts that they should seek professional psychological help. Additionally the survey showed that, despite some training in suicide intervention that chaplains receive, many do not feel that it is enough to properly help soldiers who come to them with such thoughts. Both of these gaps in practice present huge risks to soldiers’ wellbeing, but can be fully addressed with increased and more thorough chaplain training on suicide prevention.
To fight the military suicide epidemic, the people who soldiers often go to for help with suicidal thoughts had best be fully prepared to do so. I demand that you immediately provide more thorough suicide prevention training to all the military’s chaplains currently enlisted in the military, as well as all those who join in the future.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: BotMultichillT via Wikimedia Commons