ADDRESSING SUICIDE IN THE MILITARY: HELPING OUR SOLDIERS AND THE FAMILIES THEY LEAVE BEHINDTAPS Statement on July 2012 Data on Suicide in the Army, Tips for the Media on Covering Suicide
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 16, 2012
WASHINGTON – The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) issues the following statement on the news release issued today by the Army regarding the number of soldier deaths by suicide in July 2012. The Army reported 38 likely deaths by suicide among Soldiers in July 2012, which is the highest monthly number recorded by the Army.
We are deeply saddened by these numbers, and renew our commitment to support the families left behind who are grieving the death of soldiers by suicide. We know that at least 10 people are personally impacted by each death.TAPS provides comfort and care to all those grieving the death of someone who died while serving in the Armed Forces, regardless of where or how the person died. TAPS has more than 3,000 people within its network grieving the death of a service member by suicide, and intakes on average 8-10 people per week who are grieving a suicide loss. It is often through media coverage that families learn that care is available when TAPS is mentioned as a resource for bereaved families.
When families reflect on the life of their loved one, they often tell us that he or she was struggling to cope by the time he or she began seeking help. Sadly, we often hear that response is not quick enough or comprehensive enough when service members reach out and seek care. Others never seek help out of fear over how others will view seeking treatment.
When a soldier is in distress, we owe him or her an immediate and comprehensive response. We do not expect for a soldier with a broken leg to be strong and get up and become better without seeking medical treatment. When a soldier is suffering from a mental health injury, he or she deserves medical treatment and the very best care that is available. We must continue to look at how our leaders talk about mental health, how we are treating illness and injury, and how we can provide hope for those who need treatment.
Service members and veterans who are struggling with thoughts of suicide and families who are concerned about their veteran or service member, can request help by calling 1.800.273.TALK (8255) and www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.When a family is in distress after the suicide of a service member, it takes a community of care to help and support them. We often find that survivors of suicide feel alone and isolated in their grief. Stigma about the cause of death often causes these families to suffer in silence. We hope that when these families are ready for care and support, they will reach out to TAPS. Bereaved military families can reach out to TAPS at any time, day or night, at 1-800-959-TAPS (8277) or through our website at www.taps.org.
FOR THE NEWS MEDIATAPS issues the following tips for the news media covering suicide in the military, based on the best practices for reporting on suicide found online at: www.reportingonsuicide.org
More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. Risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images, and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes deaths by suicide.
Covering suicide carefully, even briefly, can change public misperceptions and correct myths which can encourage those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help. TAPS asks the news media to consider the following best practices:
- Inform the audience without sensationalizing. Instead of saying “military suicide epidemic” or “military suicides skyrocket” “military suicide crisis” say “military suicides rise,” “higher numbers” or “increased numbers.”
- Consider the images you use. Instead of using photos showing crying families, military funerals or locations of death – show family photos of the person alive before death, include the hotline for service members and families 1.800.273.TALK (8255) and www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org with a graphic.
- Remove judgment on the manner of death. Instead of saying “committed suicide” or “took their own lives,” say “died by suicide” or “completed suicide.”
- Exercise gentleness when talking with families left behind after a suicide. Survivors grieving the death of a loved one who served in the Armed Forces need time to process their experience and it takes time for the military to provide reports and other information to the family. We strongly advise any media interviewing survivors to review the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma’s interview tips for journalists talking with trauma survivors and its resources on reporting about suicide found at www.dartcenter.org.
- Suicide is complex and that complexity informs good reporting. There are almost always multiple causes of a suicide loss, including psychiatric illnesses and mental health injuries, that may not have been recognized or treated. However, these illnesses are treatable.
- Avoid reporting that death by suicide was preceded by a single event, or is linked to a single cause. Reporting like this leaves the public with an overly simplistic and misleading understanding of suicide.
About TAPSThe Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivor (TAPS) is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes and has offered support to more than 35,000 surviving family members of our fallen military and their caregivers since 1994. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, grief seminars for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, and a 24/7 resource and information helpline for all who have been affected by a death in the Armed Forces. Services are provided free of charge. For more information go to www.taps.org or call the toll-free resource and information helpline at 800.959.TAPS.
Media contact: Ami Neiberger-Miller, Public Affairs Officer, 202.588.8277, firstname.lastname@example.org
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