U.S. Army commanders have ordered soldiers to put aside their usual duties Thursday to focus on suicide awareness and prevention.

Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and other bases around the country will stand down to learn about resources and techniques for dealing with stress.

The message we're telling our soldiers is that it's okay to go get help, said Colonel Jeffrey Callin, Army 1st Core Surgeon.

This focus comes at a time when the number of suicides by soldiers exceeds the number of combat deaths.

In 2012, the Army has recorded 116 suicides among active-duty soldiers. Joint Base Lewis-McChord has recorded nine this year, with some still under investigation.

The Army worries that if suicides continue at the current pace, the number of deaths could reach 200 by December.

Everyone one of these is a tragedy and we have to get ahead of it. That's what we're doing here. We're trying to get ahead of that by taking the thing that can drive them there and dealing with before it becomes overwhelming, Colonel Callin said.

Those triggers include legal and financial problems.

Soldiers and their families are encouraged to learn about intervention techniques and how to handle the stress of war and everyday life.

JBLM is extending their suicide prevention programs from one day to all week.

Read or Share this story: