G-1, Human Resources Policy Directorate
Supporting Soldiers, Families & Civilians – Active, Guard, Reserve and Retired
3 September 2008
As a unit Commander, do you want to take this Soldier into combat? Why or why not? (There is no correct answer. For discussion)
You refer the Soldier for a mental status evaluation. The provider responds that the SPC is not currently at a high-risk for suicide. However, the provider also recommends unit watch and follow-up treatment at the mental health center. What should your course of action be? (Discuss the Soldier’s condition telephonically or face-to-face with the provider so that you are clear regarding the Soldier’s mental health status and so you and the provider can assist each other in helping the Soldier. Resolve, to your satisfaction, the seemingly contradictory recommendations of the mental health provider [i.e. Not at a high risk for suicide but, nevertheless, placed on unit watch.]).
What are the pros and cons of the various administrative actions available to you regarding this Soldier, such as chapter action versus limited duty versus medivac/hospitalization versus return to full duty? (Ideally, using the various resources available to you, you will ultimately be able to return this Soldier to full duty. Many mental health providers are reluctant to hospitalize Soldiers, because few such Soldiers return to make the contributions they are capable of and, thus, are frequently medically boarded out of the Army. Such an action causes manpower shortages within the unit and probably leads to further, more long-term psychological problems for the Soldier following discharge. The best place for treatment of the suicidal Soldier is within his/her unit. However, such “within-unit treatment” makes many Commanders uncomfortable. Commanders also frequently feel that such “within-unit treatment” saps the unit’s strength. If at all possible, return the Soldier to limited duty as quickly as possible, in conjunction with mental health provider recommendations, followed by a return to full duty once the crisis is resolved. Such a course of action meets Army treatment conditions of immediacy, proximity, and brevity. Unfortunately, many Commanders are quick to chapter who cause problems, and many mental health care providers are eager to comply with the Commanders’ decisions. In an era where enlistment standards have been lowers and where the Army is having trouble filling its ranks, such a “quick draw” on chapter actions is not without negative consequences, for both the Army and the Soldier in question.)
Many of your Soldiers could have marital problems. Many of them will handle the situation well. Others may become suicidal. Still others may not talk about it. We call the difference between those who handle such stress well and those who do not “resilience”. Are there things you can do to build resilience within your unit? (Yes. Use BATTLEMIND and create an atmosphere wherein individuals feel free to talk about their problems without fear of reprisal or ridicule.)
At what point should Command begin to think in terms of a chapter action or medical board for suicidal Soldiers? (When it is determined that the Soldier’s problems are of sufficient severity and chronicity that the Soldier’s ability to perform his/her job is significantly impaired; when it is determined that the Soldier’s behaviors constitute a realistic threat to others; and/or when it can be determined with a reasonable degree of certainty that the Soldier cannot be rehabilitated.).
Scenario #3 – Deployed Female
TACTICAL QUESTIONS and ANSWERS: