Missouri’s National Guard has led the nation in a tragic category through the first half of the year. The figures might be misleading to some eyes. But Senate Armed Services Committee member Claire McCaskill says they show a troubling set of circumstances: “Missouri has had five suicides in our National Guard this year and that is a record,” she says. No other state has had more National Guard suicides than Missouri has had this year.
But Adjutant General Steve Danner says many of Missouri’s National Guard suicides don’t appear to be related to deployment or to the military. He says one of them was a young recruit who had signed up, but who killed himself before going to basic training. Danner says Missouri has had 27 National Guard suicides since 201.He says the situation with the National Guard appears to match up with the entire state’s suicide record, which is above the national average.
Danner says some programs are in place, including a mandatory national counseling program for returning troops. He says he has begun new chaplain program and has tried unsuccessfully to get federal approval for a new chaplains school at Jefferson Barracks. He says many soldiers will talk to a chaplain who won’t talk to a mental health professional because confidentiality protections are greater with chaplains than with military mental health officers.