Army chaplains training to prevent soldier suicide

Army chaplains are on the front lines of preventing suicide in the military.

A solid feature from the United Methodist News Service explains that the Army has tried this year to improve its suicide-prevention efforts. And yet, there have been 88 reported active-duty suicides in the Army since January.

Chaplains receive specialized training and are “gatekeepers for the prevention programs,” said Chaplain Lt. Col. Scott Weichl, behavioral health program manager at the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

“Many, many folks come and talk to us,” Weichl, a United Methodist chaplain, tells the UMNS. “We are not judgmental, and many who have had serious difficulties just need someone to talk to. We try to discern, to triage who needs to see someone with special training and skills.”

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Carleton Birch of the Office of the Chief of Chaplains said that many soldiers, like civilians, are reluctant to seek help. Chaplains are now trained to refer soliders to a host of specialists, he said.

“I’ve had a lot of experience over the years with soldiers with suicidal thoughts and feelings,” Birch says. “Not a single one has said ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ to professional help at the end of our sessions.”

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.