Friday, September 04, 2009

Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs announced today the names of 14 members who will serve on the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces.

The congressionally directed task force will address trends and causal factors, methods to update prevention and education programs, suicide assessment by occupation, suicide incident investigations, and protective measures for confidential information derived from investigations for the department.

"One service member suicide is too many and DoD is taking a proactive and comprehensive approach towards prevention, with efforts to address the stigma of psychological health issues, reduce barriers to care and research best practices," said Ellen Embrey, performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. "The members of this task force have significant and varied experience in national suicide prevention, research, policy and clinical care that will play a critical role in guiding the Department of Defense in addressing this very serious issue."

The task force will operate within the Federal Advisory Committee Act guidelines as a subcommittee of the Defense Health Board, responsible to the Secretary of Defense, through the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

Membership consists of, DoD and non-DoD experts, including at least one representative each from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and one family member with a background in working with military families.

The task force will present their findings and recommendations to the secretary of defense within twelve months. Following review by the secretary, the task force's report and recommendations will be sent to Congress.

The names and biographies of the task force members are available on the Military Health Care Web site at .

--verbatim Department of Defense release

Editor's Comment: May I respectfully request that the Department of Defense set up a murder prevention task force for members of the Armed Forces and a serious investigation team to make sure that suicides are not murders? That would go a long way to insure that members of the Armed Forces are not giving up their dignity as human beings and allowing themselves to be the victims of bullies and gangs within the Armed Forces.

It would also go a long way in giving comfort to the grieving families of Armed Forces' members who have been "suicided" or conveniently labeled suicides. Take the examples of Lavena Johnson or Kirk Vanderbur, where a finding of suicide was not only ludicrous, but also insulted the intelligence of those who care...

If the DOD and Congress are serious about addressing these problems, cases designated "suicide" where the families have reason to think otherwise should be reopened for serious re-investigation. Unfortunately, in many of these cases forensic evidence has been destroyed or was never properly collected in the first place.

Were I a member of the Armed Forces, this would be of great concern.

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