USA — Suicide Solution Involves Leadership, Mullen Says

WASHINGTON — While no easy answers exist to a mil­i­tary sui­cide prob­lem that has reached “cri­sis lev­el,” a big part of the solu­tion is tied to lead­er­ship, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

Address­ing the Nation­al Guard Fam­i­ly Pro­gram Vol­un­teer Work­shop in New Orleans, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen touched on the need to care for ser­vice­mem­bers, both phys­i­cal­ly and emotionally. 

“Because of the pace, because of the stress, because of the demands, and because of the incred­i­ble achieve­ments as well as the tragedies that are asso­ci­at­ed with these wars, we are hold­ing a lot in,” Mullen said. “As these wars wind down — and they will — I would argue that the bet­ter we are right now, the more up front we are in attack­ing and try­ing to solve some of these prob­lems, the quick­er they will go away.” 

How­ev­er, Defense Depart­ment offi­cials still are in the ear­ly stages of under­stand­ing war’s impacts, such as post-trau­mat­ic stress and trau­mat­ic brain injury, Mullen noted. 

The focus must be on how to get ready for that deploy­ment and how to be pre­ven­tive in build­ing resilience on the front end that will car­ry through the deploy­ment cycle. 

Mullen also expressed con­cern for the rate at which the nation is gen­er­at­ing home­less vet­er­ans, par­tic­u­lar­ly female home­less vet­er­ans. “They have the chil­dren,” he said. “We’ve got to head that off.” 

Mullen said he was approached by a young home­less vet­er­an in Los Ange­les who had served in oper­a­tions Iraqi Free­dom and Endur­ing Free­dom. He told the chair­man, “I gave a 100 per­cent; I’d just like 100 per­cent back.” 

On wound­ed war­riors, Mullen not­ed that while com­pen­sa­tion is nec­es­sary, the empha­sis has been pri­mar­i­ly on dis­abil­i­ty and on mon­ey. How­ev­er, he added, “the empha­sis needs to be on abil­i­ty and on peo­ple and on their future, because they are going to give a lot.” 

Mullen called on the military’s lead­ers to help. “The most impor­tant ingre­di­ent is lead­er­ship: aggres­sive, focused, lis­ten­ing lead­er­ship,” he said. “Because … in the tough­est sit­u­a­tions, when noth­ing else seems to work, lead­er­ship breaks through. 

“We can’t do any­thing in the mil­i­tary with­out sus­tain­ing this great force,” he added. “That’s why we’ve got to get it right, now and in the future.” 

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

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