The Iowa National Guard has taken some significant casualties in recent months. Since late last year, eight active or former soldiers have taken their own lives. Major Amy Price oversees the Iowa National Guard’s suicide prevention programs.
“We’re having one of our worst years for suicide,” Price says. “Often people relate the suicides in the military to those who have deployed, but what we’re seeing is the majority of suicides have (involved) soldiers that have not deployed.”
Since last December, five active guardsmen ended their lives. They were between the ages of 18 and 25 were said to be facing financial and/or relationship problems.
“One of the biggest things that were doing is just trying to decrease the stigma of asking for help. We have a lot of resources out there for those who are struggling,” Price says. At least one case might have been related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Guard Chaplain Gary Selof says the losses have been tough on other soldiers. “I think it’s harder than a combat loss honestly, because it’s something the person intentionally did,” Selof says. “Questions are raised (about) why didn’t we see it coming, couldn’t we have done something to prevent it…sometimes you just don’t see it coming at all and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Chaplain Selof says every soldier is aware of the threat. Suicide awareness is confronted openly, with an emphasis on training, identifying the symptoms, and getting help for those endangered.