Army suicide prevention effort paying off at JBLM

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Drewmikk

KING5.com

Posted on June 14, 2012 at 5:14 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 14 at 5:30 PM

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash.-- After a record-setting 12 JBLM soldiers killed themselves in 2011, the Army knew something had to be done.

“It caused us to go back and look at the mirror and look over every policy,” said Col. Steven Bullimore, I Corps Chief of Staff.

Bullimore said changes were made and that they seem to be working.

No JBLM soldiers have committed suicide in 2012.

“We’re very psyched about having an effect, but we’re cautiously optimistic because we realize how fragile this is,” said Bullimore.

Bullimore said soldiers are screened about two times as much as they used to be, and a review board now examines ways to prevent suicides.

“I would like to think that lives have been saved,” said JBLM Suicide Prevention Manager Vicki Duffy, “I can tell you… we have set soldiers up for success who were in distress.”

Greg Miller is not as optimistic.

“Unless something substantial changed in the last three months,” said Miller. “There was no road map to these services. There was not a resource where I could go and say 'Hey, I need help!'”

Miller was honorably discharged from the Army in March. He served a year in Iraq in 2009.

Miller had thoughts of suicide when he returned to JBLM and was not able to get help. He said he got better help after leaving the Army than he ever did when he was enlisted.

For the military to solve the suicide rate problem, Miller said suicide prevention needs to be discussed more openly.

Bullimore said he’s noticed a change in culture after the 2011 suicides reached record levels.

He said more soldiers are willing to come forward with their problems.

“There’s a trust now I don’t think we had before,” said Bullimore.

 

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