Fort Carson Army post reported a 33% decrease in its suicide rate from 2009 to 2010, officials said on Wednesday.
Brig. Gen. James Doty told the AP on Wednesday that the Colorado Springs post's suicide rate was 31 per 100,000 in 2010, down from 49 per 100,000 in 2009. In 2008, Fort Carson's rate was 66 per 100,000, which--according to the Colorado Springs Gazette--was 4 times the national average.
Doty says it may not be possible to pinpoint exactly what led to the decrease in suicide rate, but said a new program that places behavioral specialists close to troops, instead of isolating them, may be responsible. He says the new method eases some of the stigma associated with seeking mental health care.
A New York Times article from April, 2010 profiled a Fort Carson soldier who had attempted suicide in 2009. The story identified some of the problems associated with the Army's approach to providing care for wounded soldiers.
Created in the wake of the scandal in 2007 over serious shortcomings at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Warrior Transition Units were intended to be sheltering way stations where injured soldiers could recuperate and return to duty or gently process out of the Army. There are currently about 7,200 soldiers at 32 transition units across the Army, with about 465 soldiers at Fort Carson's unit.
But interviews with more than a dozen soldiers and health care professionals from Fort Carson's transition unit, along with reports from other posts, suggest that the units are far from being restful sanctuaries. For many soldiers, they have become warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned officers. Because of their wounds, soldiers in Warrior Transition Units are particularly vulnerable to depression and addiction, but many soldiers from Fort Carson's unit say their treatment there has made their suffering worse.
Mental health policies at Fort Carson changed in the wake of a 127-page report issued in July, 2009 at the behest of then-commander General Mark Graham. Reflecting on the reforms at Fort Carson, Graham told the Gazette in December that the most important change that the report yielded was promoting a culture where "everyone knew, no matter who you are, coming forward to get help is a sign of strength, not weakness."