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Five Missouri National Guard Troops Commit Suicide So Far This Year

Missouri has one of the highest suicide rates in the National Guard so far this year. KSMU’s Jennifer Moore reports.

Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, sits on the US Armed Services Committee. She says already this year, five soldiers in the Missouri National Guard have taken their own lives—that’s a record high, she says.

On Tuesday, the Armed Services Committee talked about the shortfall of mental health professionals in the military. McCaskill says one solution is to hire licensed mental health counselors without supervision.

“The military is moving forward on that, and they are working to fill 225 vacancies across the military with very-much needed mental health professionals,” she says.

McCaskill also talked about protecting a soldier’s confidentiality if he or she comes forward seeking mental health treatment, and embedding a mental health counselor in each National Guard unit across the state.

“This has been done in California, which has the largest contingency of National Guard in the country—they have 40 units in California. And at a relatively inexpensive price, they’ve been able to embed mental health counselors,” McCaskill said.

Senator Kit Bond said he also recognizes the problem. He said programs are in place at Ft. Leanord Wood and elsewhere which provide training for field commanders to deal with psychological problems their troops may have.

“We have fought hard to get more mental health and invisible injury professionals into the DOD. We are pushing the Department of Defense, which is moving slowly, as it always does, to get the word out that when commanders or anybody else see a problem, they need to get that person to the proper care,” Bond said.

Oregon, Washington, and Missouri have the highest number suicides in the National Guard so far this year.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.