b. Suicide in the Army. The United States Army is made up of people from all
walks of life, people performing their duties all over the world. The demands of their
mission place soldiers under unusual amounts of stress which sometimes leads to
depression and then suicide attempts. Suicide ranks as one of the top ten killers among
civilians and is one of the top three killers in the active duty peacetime military. Suicide
is not more common in the peacetime Army. Soldiers are screened at the time of entry
into the Army and are physically fit. Additionally, these individuals are serving in the
Army during their peak years of physical fitness. Nevertheless, frequent moves,
continually learning new tasks, and separation from family can take their toll. The most
commonly used methods of suicide in the military have been firearms, poison such as
carbon monoxide, and hanging. The highest rate of suicides in recent years has been
among E-2s in the period between the completion of basic training and the start of the
next duty assignment. This is a time of transition, with anticipation of pass/fail training
assessments, moving, separation from friends, and disrupted personal relationships.
c. Types of Suicidal Behavior. Suicidal behavior is usually broken down into
these types: suicide threats, suicide attempts, suicide gestures, and the successful
suicide. The suicide threat usually takes place before an actual suicide attempt.
Suicide threats include statements such as "I just can't take it anymore." or "Will you
remember me when I'm gone?" or "Take care of my family for me." The suicide threat is
an indication that the person can't make up his mind but is thinking of suicide. Suicide
attempts include any actions taken by the individual toward himself that will lead to
death if not interrupted. A suicide gesture is really a cry for help. The individual
carefully thinks out the ways in which he may be rescued from his suicide attempt. His
plans may include a call to someone to say that he has just taken an overdose of some
medicine or a suicide attempt in a place where he will be found and rescued. The
methods most frequently used in a suicide gesture are superficial cutting of wrists and
single drug overdose. The successful suicide is, of course, the individual who tries and
succeeds in taking his own life.
d. Terms Relating to Potential Suicides.
(1) Behavior signs. The person's actions or behaviors may suddenly
change greatly. A very thrifty person may suddenly begin spending more money than
he earns. A moderate drinker may increase his alcohol consumption.
(2) Crisis. This is the point at which the usual problem-solving or decision-
making methods are no longer adequate. At this point, the person may be so
overwhelmed that he selects suicide as the only way to solve his problems.
(3) Depression. Feelings (moods) of sadness, despair, and discouragement
describe depression. Depression may be disruptive to the soldier causing decreased
ability to think, diminished physical ability, guilt, self-condemnation, hopelessness, and
disorders of eating and sleeping.