AIR FORCE SUICIDES PLUMMET DUE TO THERAPY OUTREACH

The Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1999, reported a dramatic drop in the suicide rate of Air Force personnel over the last four years due to a prevention program aimed at breaking down "macho" resistance to seeing a therapist and talking out personal problems. For years, suicide has been the second-leading cause of death among the Air Force's 350,000 personnel, behind only accentual injuries.

The numbers have declined steadily since the Air Force started its suicide prevention program in 1995. Suicides dropped from 68 in 1994 to 34 last year. So far only six suicides were reported through August 1999.

Suicides among law enforcement personnel have been the topic of discussion over the past few years. Although accurate statistics about police suicide rates have not been determined agencies that have had one or more incident of officer suicide experience a profound sense of loss. The Air Force program and resulting measured success should serve as encouragement to law enforcement agencies to have top notch prevention programs in place. An investment in training all level of personnel in psychological and emotional health and a counseling and therapy network in place is the key to preventing suicides as well as other consequences of a "psychological slide."

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