by Max Brantley
The Arkansas National Guard is concerned that its members aren't getting all the assistance they need. It's reaching out for help after four reported suicides since January.
On the jump: The National Guard's release on the issue.
CAMP JOSEPH T. ROBINSON, N. Little Rock, Ark:-- Maj. Gen. William Wofford, adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard accompanied by Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe today disclosed numbers for suicides among Arkansas' Soldiers and Airmen and asked the public for assistance in reversing this trend.
"We constantly call on our men and women in uniform to help us. We ask for it here in Arkansas all the time, from ice storms to floods to tornados. We always ask people in uniform to help us in so many different ways. This is now an example when the rest of us need to help them," said Beebe.
The 1 p.m. press conference held at the Military Department's Headquarters here focused on the loss of nine Guardsmen since January 1, 2009. Of those nine, two were confirmed suicides while two others are still pending possible confirmation. Five others are no longer under investigation and were not labeled suicide by Arkansas coroners. However, the circumstances behind these
deaths were inconclusive. Wofford said the Guard would not release specifics on the deaths out of respect to the families of the Soldiers and Airmen. The general did emphasize the Guard has been doing a number of things internally to combat the trend.
"We, as an organization, have been providing training to our Soldiers, Airmen and their Families. Over 95 percent just completed the second phase of our Suicide Stand-Down program. We have also this year implemented a philosophy for our unit leaders designed to de-stigmatize the idea of stepping forward and admitting that a Soldier or Airman has a problem," Wofford said. "But we only have visibility on these Soldiers and Airmen for
a couple of days each month. We need the community's help in watching out for our Soldiers and Airmen during the remaining 28 days each month."
He added that those who identified with stress related issues during the re-deployment process and family reintegration programs have been provided treatment or counseling. But that the problem is in identifying that a Guard member has a problem that needs to be dealt with in the first place.
The general also introduced a panel of program directors that coordinate available benefits and services focused on getting Guard members treatment, counseling, and assistance for stress and readjustment issues.
A complete transcript of the press conference is attached including questions and answers from the media.
For video of the complete statements by Maj. Gen. Wofford and Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe from today's press conference, see the links below to the Arkansas Guard web page or their Facebook homepage.