Evaluation of Prevention Programs
Woodson said more research is needed, including using metrics to evaluate suicide prevention programs in the military.
“One of the things that we have to be careful of in a resource-constrained environment is that we don’t fund programs that are not effective, and we allow others that would be effective to wither on the vine,” he said.
Some prevention programs seem to work better than others, Woodson said. For example, servicemembers in custody following arrest are at higher suicide risk, making more critical programs to evaluate their mental-health status.
Peer-to-peer programs seem to work, Woodson said, adding that a key factor is for troops to have access to high-quality mental health care by mental health professionals who understand how to evaluate and treat for suicide risk.
Hazing and Suicide
Near the end of the hearing, Rep. Judy Chu, (D-CA), told the subcommittee and military witnesses about the death of Lance Corp. Harry Lew, a marine who killed himself in Afghanistan in April.
Chu said that Lew was found sleeping on watch one evening while serving in Afghanistan, something that had happened before. At 11:30 p.m., his sergeant called for “peers to correct peers,” she said.
“At 12:01 pm, Lance Corp. Lew was beaten, berated and forced to perform rigorous exercise,” she continued. “He was forced to do pushups and leg lifts wearing full body armor and sand was poured in his mouth. He was forced to dig a hole for hours. He was kicked, punched and stomped on, and it did not stop until 3:20 a.m. At 3:43 a.m., Lance Corp. Lew climbed into the foxhole that he just dug and shot himself and committed suicide.”
Chu then revealed that Lew was her nephew.
“He was 21 years old, and he was looking forward to returning home after three months. He was a very popular and outgoing young man, known for joking and smiling and breakdancing,” she said.
Chu wanted to know whether hazing was expressly prohibited by the services and how the services were preventing “suicide from hazing.”
The military leaders insisted hazing was not tolerated.He HHddd
“This is unfortunate,” said Lt. Gen. Robert E. Milstead Jr., USMC deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs. “Hazing is inconsistent with the Marine Corps core values. It is expressly prohibited.”
Woodson expressed his sorrow for Chu’s loss and also said that hazing was “inconsistent” with DoD policy.
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