caption="Adm. Mike Mullen says it will take a few days to verify that North Korea conducted a nuclear test."]
CNN Washington Bureau
America’s highest ranking military officer said Tuesday the military must do a better job for the mental health of American soldiers as they return home from battle warning statistics show “there are going to be more (troop) suicides this year than last.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said as troops come home, the military is lacking the necessary amount of mental health professionals to help them deal with the high stress of war. Mullen said he’s working to get more funding to increase the number of counselors so more soldiers can be helped.
Mullen made the comment to an audience of military families during a breakfast sponsored by the Hill newspaper at the Liaison Hotel in Washington.
“I think we need to get to a point where everyone is screened by a competent mental health professional,” Mullen said.
The help can’t come soon enough as officials say 64 soldiers have committed suicide this year in the army alone. Military officials say this year’s 64 suspected Army suicides are on a grim pace to break last year’s record of 133.
The issue came to a head last week as Fort Campbell in Kentucky stood down for a three day suicide prevention event after 11 soldiers committed suicide there this year.
Suicides aren’t the only problem stress can cause for soldiers. The Army charged Sgt. John Russell with the murder of five fellow troops at a stress clinic in Baghdad’s Camp Liberty last month. Russell’s commander referred him to counseling because of concern for his mental health.
But there are some strategies which seem to be helpful in treating stress, Mullen said. He singled out Ft. Hood in Texas. Mullen said even though Fort Hood in Texas has 30,000 more soldiers than at Fort Campbell, there was only one suicide at Fort Hood as of April.
“The General out there had essentially focused on relieving stress (and) not just attacking the suicide issue and he’d done it very systematically. It just shows that when leaders apply themselves, we can make a big difference there,” Mullen said.
Attacking the overall stress in soldiers may be more effective than just worrying about suicides, the admiral said, as troops face stress not just in war but also in day to day life as well.
“We are working hard to understand the underpinnings of this and broadly, many of these suicides occur based on failed relationships, financial problems in a history too often discovered after the tragic event,” Mullen said.
In fact, half of the suicides at Fort Campbell were committed by soldiers who had never deployed but Mullen said there is still a connection.
“I’ve heard people use that as a reason that would very possibly say the deployments don’t have anything to do with it and I just don’t believe that,” Mullen said. “I believe there is a relationship between those who haven’t deployed but are going to deploy and all of the stress and hype that you hear as you get ready to go on your first deployment.”
Filed under: 360° Radar
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with