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November 26, 1999 / Vol. 48 / No. 46 - page 2 / 20

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1054 Suicide — Continued

MMWR

November 26, 1999

FIGURE 1. Annual number and rate* of suicides among U.S. Air Force personnel — United States, 1980–1999

120 Number

18

100

Rate

16

14

80

12

Number

60

10

8

Rate

40

6

4

20

2

0

0

1980

1982

1984 1986

1988 1990

1992

1994 1996 1998

Year

*Per 100,000 U.S. Air Force personnel.

  • 1999 rate is an estimated projection as of August 31, 1999. Significant negative linear trend

in suicide rate from 1994 to 1998 (p<0.002).

areas identified by other prevention programs: adapting CDC recommendations for youth suicide prevention (3 ) to the USAF adult population, restructuring prevention services offered on USAF installations (4 ), and establishing a central surveillance database for fatal and nonfatal self-injuries (5 ).

Adapting CDC Recommendations

The team established USAF requirements for annual suicide prevention and aware- ness training, which was provided to approximately 80% of USAF members. Supervi- sors and leaders within each military unit, medical providers, attorneys, and chaplains received concentrated training as “gatekeepers” whose role was to channel persons at risk to appropriate agencies. In 1996, the USAF began to administer a comprehen- sive health questionnaire, including items about mental health status, when USAF members enrolled in the military health-care plan; an abbreviated version was sub- sequently administered annually. Questionnaire data were used to determine when referral to a health-care provider was indicated.

The USAF Chiefs of Staff sent servicewide electronic messages, recognizing the courage and sound judgment of persons who confronted difficult issues and sought professional help (e.g., marital, family, legal, financial, mental health, and spiritual counseling). These messages also stated that military leaders must ensure that mem-

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