The United States Army has been struggling with hundreds of soldier suicides in the past decade. A new $50 million program started by the Army two years ago is helping soldiers improve their mental health, decrease the incidents of soldier suicides, and also serves as part of a much larger array of a service-member mental health improvement program.
The story of Levertis Jackson, a 41 year-old former Army specialist, is in many ways emblematic of the growing problem of suicides among military personnel. Jackson joined the Army in 1992 and served several tours abroad, including in Bosnia and in Afghanistan. Serving several tours in some of the world’s deadliest conflicts can create mental health issues for anyone, but Jackson’s problems began even before he joined the army. Jackson was severely bullied as a youngster and went through two failed marriages as an adult.
These underlying issues, combined with combat stress, caused Jackson to attempt suicide. Jackson fashioned a rope from military duct tape and hanged himself in his garage. A family friend found Jackson and cut him down, at the last moment, to save Jackson’s life. Following this suicide attempt in 2012, Jackson was signed up into the Army’s program for veterans suffering from suicidal thoughts.
The program combines the use of mental health and behavioral specialists to create individualized tracks for each soldier signed up for the program. Soldiers get advice and coaching on avoiding suicidal thoughts, and to recognize and take certain actions when such thoughts set in. Jackson stated that the program has been good for him, and that he has been happier recently than he remembers being in a long time. Jackson expressed hope that the program, combined with other initiatives, can help reduce the deplorably high number of soldier suicides.
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