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Fort Bliss fights military suicide spike

By Matthew Smith
Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:30:35 AM CST
Updated On: Aug 20 2013 10:55:22 AM CDT

Fort Bliss is fighting against military suicides.

FORT BLISS, Texas -

Last year nearly 350 soldiers committed suicide. Some people say it's a military epidemic.

But in El Paso Fort Bliss has become what some people are calling the model for suicide prevention.

This year 49 people in El Paso have committed suicide. Last year there were 65. Mirror that with the military in our community and you'll see a surprising picture. Five suicides this year, as well as five for all of 2012.

According to the Los Angeles Times, two-thirds of the military's suicide victims saw the front lines. But that still leaves one-third that didn't.

"We are making every effort to ensure that our soldiers are able to seek help that have the tool and have tools at their disposal," said Colonel William McCauley, the Wellness Fusion Campus Director.

Suicides spiked throughout the Army last year. At Fort Bliss they dropped. Currently three separate suicide prevention programs are used. The goal to increase awareness of warning signs and erase the stigma.

"Really, what our leaders have been pushing on our family members and soldiers is don't worry about that come and get help and we'll take care of you," said Colonel Mike Heimall  William of the Beaumont Medical Center.

Sleepless nights and changes in moods are noted. At Bliss there are countless ways to track all ranks of soldiers. But the goal isn't just to lower suicide rates here.

"And really it needs to extend beyond soldiers: family members, retirees, the veterans in our community we really want to be able to extend our resources," Heimall said. 

Expansion has pushed Bliss officials into work with schools and other El Paso organizations. Change isn't expected overnight.

And while every death including five this year are concerning, they're moving in the right direction and they know the rest of the military is looking to them for more answers.

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