Chiarelli Lauds Anti-Suicide PSAs

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2011 — Pre­vent­ing sui­cide in the mil­i­tary is show­ing signs of progress, but break­ing the social stig­ma attached to it remains a chal­lenge, the Army vice chief of staff said at the Blue Star Fam­i­lies’ pre­miere show­ing of the “I Don’t Know What It’s Like,” pub­lic ser­vice announce­ments to help mil­i­tary fam­i­lies fight sui­cide.

“Mak­ing sure the peo­ple who need help are will­ing to take advan­tage of those pro­grams and ser­vices is not some­thing that can be direct­ed from the upper ech­e­lons of com­mand,” Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarel­li told an audi­ence of mil­i­tary fam­i­lies, senior mil­i­tary lead­ers, mem­bers of Con­gress, busi­ness and Hol­ly­wood celebri­ties here last night at the Amer­i­can Red Cross Great Hall of Ser­vice.

“In the mil­i­tary, we insti­tute poli­cies and [give] orders,” the gen­er­al said. “But you can’t direct the elim­i­na­tion of this stig­ma.” Fight­ing the stig­ma, he said, can only be done by those who under­stand that the symp­toms of depres­sion and anx­i­ety, which could lead to sui­cide, are real and not signs of weak­ness, and that seek­ing help is OK, Chiarel­li said.

The non­prof­it Blue Star Fam­i­lies launched the sui­cide pre­ven­tion PSAs in sup­port of mil­i­tary fam­i­lies, with help from sev­er­al orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing The Cre­ative Coali­tion, com­pris­ing mem­bers of the arts and enter­tain­ment com­mu­ni­ty who take on issues of pub­lic impor­tance.

Chiarel­li recalled how a Blue Star Fam­i­lies mem­ber, Ali­son Buck­holtz, gained atten­tion last year from her opin­ion piece in the Los Ange­les Times when she called on the Defense Depart­ment for an out­reach pro­gram to tack­le the grow­ing prob­lem of sui­cides in the mil­i­tary. The gen­er­al cred­it­ed Buck­holtz for rais­ing aware­ness of the sui­cide issue.

“The PSAs are the direct result of her call for a pub­lic out­reach pro­gram that will inevitably save lives both inside the mil­i­tary and out­side the mil­i­tary,” Chiarel­li said. “[We’re] see­ing a reduc­tion in the num­ber of sui­cides across our forces, includ­ing our reserve com­po­nents,” he said. “Every sui­cide is one too many. We must con­tin­ue, and dou­ble, our efforts and keep work­ing to expand the acces­si­bil­i­ty of pro­grams and ser­vices to bet­ter sup­port those not liv­ing or work­ing near a mil­i­tary instal­la­tion.” Com­bat­ing sui­cide requires total team sup­port, the gen­er­al said, now and into the future.

“That’s what these pub­lic ser­vice announce­ments are about,” Chiarel­li said. “There are great sup­port and care pro­grams avail­able, and today, doc­tors, ther­a­pists, behav­ioral health coun­selors and mem­bers of the cler­gy are will­ing to help those strug­gling with depres­sion, anx­i­ety and oth­er con­di­tions.”

How­ev­er, pro­fes­sion­als can­not help those who avoid seek­ing help because they feel embar­rassed, ashamed or fear it will neg­a­tive­ly impact their lives and careers, the gen­er­al said. “There’s absolute­ly no rea­son for any­one to suf­fer in silence,” Chiarel­li said. “A sol­dier who is hit and injured by an [impro­vised explo­sive device] would nev­er go untreat­ed, and there’s no dif­fer­ence.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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