Congressman told by DoD that all military suicide victims are atheists

In 2009 a part of the US Army called Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) sprang forward to deal with the rising suicide rate. They spent $125 million taxpayer dollars. They wasted it.

The BBC released an article saying that the military’s suicide rate has now climbed to roughly one per day.

Suicide in the US military has sharply increased this year, hitting a rate of almost one death per day, figures show.

As of 3 June, 2012 active-duty suicides reached 154, compared with 130 in the same period last year, the Pentagon confirmed to the BBC.

The number far exceeds US combat deaths for the same period.

“We are deeply concerned about suicide in the military,” a Pentagon spokeswoman said, adding it was “one of the most urgent problems” they faced.

Spiritual Fitness has failed

The CSF wasted $125 Million on an attempt to make soldiers go to the chaplain to get born again so they wont commit suicide. When we fail the mandatory test, they now make us do mandatory online Spiritual Fitness remedial training.

That remedial training included a lesson on how to fold the American flag like a good little Christian - which is not based in tradition at all, incidentally. They even created a disastrous “Virtual Spiritual Fitness Center” to match the millions of dollars they spend on bricks-and-mortar versions.

All along CSF personnel claim to the media / lawyers that ‘Spiritual Fitness’ does not refer to religion at all – rather it’s about team spirit and the human spirit. Why do they say that? Because they know that admitting it was religious is admitting it’s illegal. Take a look at that Virtual Spiritual Fitness Center, let me know what you think. ‘Team Spirit’?

Yet now someone appears to be lobbying congressmen with dubious statistics apparently gained from the unconstitutional testing and training. Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) blamed the recent theater shooting in Aurora, CO on ‘attacks on Christianity’. Gohmert went on the air and started citing ‘unreleased DoD statistics’ that ‘prove’ that military suicides are ‘all’ atheist soldiers. He gave a very specific number and statistic, and he will be hearing from my lawyers with a Freedom Of Information Act request shortly.

What the hell is congress being told by the DoD?

*Click to embiggen*

Damage control

That article from the BBC seems to be swallowing the damage control hook, line, and sinker.

News of the suicide rate increase comes despite years of effort by the US military to encourage troops to seek help for mental health problems.

Those efforts include setting up confidential telephone hotlines and placing more mental health specialists near the battlefield.

… 

[*Continued below the fold*]

There has not been any visible increase in encouraging troops to seek MEDICAL treatment for mental health problems. They’ve drastically increased visibility for the chaplaincy (which is nearly universally Christian, and dominated by evangelists). Chaplains defend this policy by saying they take a special counseling course. Well so do *counselors*, along with the rest of their years of education – not to mention an entire career of exactly this type of medical experience.

Every time the military’s suicide rate hits the news, the Chaplaincy scoops up more and more funding for suicide prevention. It isn’t working, and it’s time to stop the madness. My friends are dying!

Beyond just this Spiritual Fitness nonsense, and even beyond the chaplaincy, the US Military spends hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on evangelism in the form of civilian contractors. There is an entire industry of sneaky evangelists who manipulate the contracting system, getting rich in the process. Their main focus is in converting service members, our spouses, and even our children to one specific brand of Christianity. Once again, I’m not talking about the chaplaincy whatsoever. These are civilians!

Stop throwing hundreds of millions of dollars away on evangelism and other hocus pocus. Do some real damage control… save some lives.

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About Justin Griffith
  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    What disgusts me thee most about the spiritual fitness program is how nakedly cynical it is. The chaplain corps basically saw a massive, pressing issue with a lot of attention and used it as a way to con large amounts of funding from the DoD. Not only that, they used it to mandate policies that compell Soldiers to participate so they can evangelize.

    It’s a blatant violation of the public trust and makes plain that the chaplain corps has outlived its usefulness.

    • Justin Griffith

      Exactly. This is way beyond the scale and scope of the chaplaincy. My concerns were dismissed as ‘paranoid’ when I was screaming about how the DoD admitted it was going to use the data when this rolled out! They claimed it was for ‘H&R decisions… involving where to spend money wisely.’

      If by chance this congressman is just lying, and there is no ’6000 personality profile index’ that measures atheism vs suicide… the DoD needs to say so NOW. I’ll find out via FOIA soon enough.

  • josephyaroch

    It appears as though the military evangelists are trying to co-opt mental health treatment, which is, of course, what Scientology did. Real mental health professionals, by the way, consider it unethical to use counseling to sway someone’s religious belief.

  • Steve

    Well, at the moment it’s “Congressman claims he was told by DoD that all military suicide victims are atheists”

    Gohmert is a pathological liar and just flat out insane. I don’t say it’s impossible this really happened, but you can’t really trust anything he says.

  • Rachael

    How can they possibly say that it’s not religious when the website clearly has nothing but religious choices. Just because they use the word “spiritual” doesn’t make it non-religious. What a bold statement to say that all of those who committed suicide were Atheists. I’m sure the families of those soldiers are really happy about hearing that.

    • Justin Griffith

      Because there are no real journalists anymore.

  • Airca

    Have you read about Pvt. Danny Chen? He commited suicide and his accusers that harrased him for his race are on trial at Fort Bragg, they were stationed at Fort Wainwright AK. Anyway, I did not know his beliefs but if he was christian I’m pretty sure his family and friends wouldn’t like someone deciding what he believed in because of the nature of his death. I don’t want people calling me a christian, musslim, buddist, ect after I die. Anyway, I want to attend the hearings to support him and his family but I am just now finding out about this case and it has been hard looking up the info. I believe the trial begins tomorrow. Does anyone have any friends up at Jag or know anyone who could get me the information? Also if we are able to get this information, would anyone like to go to the hearings as well?

  • Patricia, OM

    I work two days a week, as a volunteer assisting with widows benefits, at my county VSO. When I see money like this poured into a bullshit program it makes me furious. There are so many other ways to use the money that would actually help soldiers and their families.

    /rant as old as time.

  • Chuck Clark

    It took me ages in 1965 to get my religious preference on my id tags (dog tags) listed as Buddhist instead of Christian. No one in the system seemed to care or think it was important enough to make the change. I never had a single chaplain even talk to me or go out of their way to acknowledge me.

    • Justin Griffith

      “I never had a single chaplain even talk to me or go out of their way to acknowledge me.”

      That’s unheard of today. I’m jealous! I’ve heard from so many atheists from your time period that say “I never even met or saw a chaplain.” Shit changed in the late 80′s / early 90′s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/groups/257889894257845/ Rogi Riverstone

    witch doctors are always cheaper than scientifically based treatment. The Fed. contracts with the lowest bidder. Fundies r a cheap trick. onward, xian soldiers.

  • Heidi

    Well if only atheists commit suicide, doesn’t that mean that religious counseling is pointless?* I mean, they’re not going to go to it, right? I say shut down all the religious counseling now. It’s not needed.

    *as opposed to just worthless

  • Corvus illustris

    This “program” started in 2009? Well, I guess we may still hope for change …

  • Robert B.

    I’m fine with using “spiritual” or “soul” as a metaphor for the emotional and moral components of the mind. But metaphor is all it is. There is not, in fact, any such thing as a spirit. The phenomena they’re calling “spiritual” are in fact mental health issues. By which I mean they are health issues. How many of those suicides might have been prevented by getting the victims to a fucking doctor for an SSRI prescription and some real expert therapy?

    This is a problem for the medical corps, not the chaplain’s corps, and there is no excuse for anyone not to know that in a year beginning with a 2.

  • Schweinhundt

    I don’t know anything about Rep. Gohmert’s history/character, but, I have to share Steve’s doubts (reply #3) about the validity of the info—whatever the source.

    Unless there has been a severe change in policy, Individually Identifiable Information is stripped before the Department of the Army does any number crunching. (The relevant links are listed below.)

    I.e. it should not be possible to link individual suicides to so-called “personality index profiles.”

    http://csf.army.mil/faq.html#

    http://csf.army.mil/downloads/GAT-Use-and-Policy.pdf

    • Justin Griffith

      You wouldn’t need Individually Identifiable Information to make his statement true. The CSF training assesses your spiritual fitness based on your answers to theological and quasi-metaphysical questions. You can be in Gohmert’s so-called ’2% most atheistic’ without having your name attached. Then he’s just stretching to link suicides to it.

      Also, there was a new study a few weeks ago from another college that visited several bases, including Fort Bragg. I have all the materials and I took some video / screen shots. It could easily also be the case. This one you had to sign off several spaces allowing them to look at your personal records. The only alternative to taking this 90 minute assessment was to stand there in silence for 90 minutes. I took the exam… it’s VERY similar to CSF nonsense. At the end it had paperwork that said “Thank you for completing this mental health assessment” (paraphrase)… flip it over “Yes I want to be contacted by a chaplain. No I don’t want to be contacted by a chaplain.” There was no box for such contact from the mental health dept. Chaplain was your only option.

      Also on this latest test, they asked what religion I was. I said “atheist” (that really was an option). The next question was “Are you: a) born again b) filled with spirit c) blah blah blah hocus pocus d) blah blah blah other religious term ” It was weird as hell. I post about it in the next few days.

  • zav

    “wont commit suicide”

    Wont?

    Won’t = will not.

    • Justin Griffith

      Thanks.

  • Alan(UK)

    I am going to get very annoyed but not about the things that you are getting annoyed about.

    The first and rather obvious thing is that the difference between 154 and 130 is not statistically significant – go do the sums.

    The second is that it is our own BBC that has pulled this stunt yet again – can they not run statistics past a statistician before wasting electrons?

    The third is that they did not publish their source. Every idiot on the Internet has parroted the same stuff – it took some time to find this:

    http://timemilitary.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/msmrsuicide2012-06.pdf

    Now look at: ‘F I G U R E 1 . Numbers and crude rates of death by suicide among active component service

    members (n=2,652), by gender, 1998-2011′ on page 8.

    Again, we need to be aware of statistical fluctuations but there is no indication of anything out of the ordinary happening at the present time – in other words, this is a non-story by the BBC.

    Finally, why the cut-off date of 3 June 2012? Was this chosen to get the headline figure of one a day? Also, the army released the suicide figures for May on 22 June – http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=15396 – even then most of the figures were tentative; yet the BBC published the figures as hard facts on 8 June!

    Obviously we are dealing with very serious matters here and it does not help to have journalists acting irresponsibly.

    • Justin Griffith

      Internal verbage is consistent with such a message, though. My PAO officer was the person who alerted me to the uptick in suicides again.

      Also, the historical data certainly does show a vast difference between the figures at the start of last decade and now. A steady increase year by year, plateau (at record highs) in 2010-2011… and what looks like an increase now.

      It’s the #2 leading cause of death. Read here for more: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2011/RAND_MG953.pdf

      What Is the Suicide Rate in Military Services?
      Suicide rates are typically reported in number of cases per 100,000 people. Figure S.1
      shows the suicide rate among active-duty personnel for each military service and for
      DoD overall and reflects the published rate among active-duty military through 2008.
      It shows that, in 2008, the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) and the U.S. Army have the
      highest rates (19.5 and 18.5, respectively), and the Air Force and the Navy have the
      lowest rates (12.1 and 11.6, respectively).
      The figure also indicates that the suicide rate across DoD has been climbing,
      rising from 10.3 in 2001 to 15.8 in 2008, which represents about a 50-percent increase.
      The increase in the DoD suicide rate is largely attributable to a doubling of the rate in
      the Army. There is evidence that the suicide rate in DoD in calendar year (CY) 2007
      was higher than those in CYs 2001 and 2002. There is also evidence that the rate in
      CY 2008 was higher than the annual rate between CYs 2001 and 2005 and higher
      than the average rate for CYs 2001 through 2008. Across services, there are significant
      differences in only the Army’s suicide rate over time. Specifically, the Army suicide
      rates for CYs 2006 and 2007 were higher than in 2001 and 2004, and the rate in
      CY 2008 was higher than in it was between CY 2001 and CY 2005 and higher than
      the average rate for CYs 2001 through 2008.

      How Does the Military Suicide Rate Compare with That of the U.S. Population?
      An important question is how the rate in the military compares with that of the general
      population. The estimated annual suicide rate in the general population for 2001–2006
      hovers at around 10 per 100,000 (CDC, 2010)
      , notably lower than that in DoD. But
      these populations are not necessarily comparable, because the military and the national
      population differ so much in terms of age, sex, and racial makeup and, in part, because
      the procedures for reporting suicide data also vary, both between states and regions and
      between the nation and DoD.
      To derive a comparable population, RAND researchers
      calculated an adjusted suicide rate for a synthetic national population having the same
      demographic profile as DoD personnel and as each service. Figure S.2 shows the results
      of comparing DoD with the comparable segment of the U.S. population for the years
      2001–2006.
      1
      These results show that the suicide rate in the synthetic civilian population is both fairly constant and substantially higher than that in DoD. Of concern,
      however, is that the gap between DoD and the general population is closing. The mostpronounced increases in the DoD suicide rate occurred in 2007 and 2008, so, assuming that the national rate remains relatively stable in these years, the gap between the
      rate in DoD and the general population may be even narrower.

      Notice they try to synthesize a higher suicide rate for the general public to make it seem more palatable? See which factors their synthetic ‘adjusted civilian rate’ controls for? Note how they didn’t include any factors that might make the number less agreeable? The DoD pre-screens anyone for mental illness, checks to see if you’ve been prescribed anti-psychotics (and similar drugs), checks to see if you can pass a drug test, checks to see if you pass high school (or equivalent), checks to see how much debt you’re in, tests your stress in boot camp (first 180day wash-outs are separated relatively painlessly – called ‘entry level separation’)… I bet the disparity is MUCH worse than they’d have you believe.

      This is all 2008 data we’re talking about in my comment…

    • Justin Griffith

      Also, the figures you’re annoyed about are not including Reserve and National Guard figures… quite a significant portion of suicides. I had found the file you referenced in my pre-article googling too. I didn’t use the figures because they were likely to confuse people exactly as they seem to have confused you.

      • Alan(UK)

        My complaint is against the BBC. They seem to have acquired two figures: 130 and 154 from I know not where. They have then spun this story about an increase out of it. The point is that we are dealing with random occurrences here – the time scale here, about 5 months, is just not sufficient to detect any long-term trend. 130 is effectively the same as 154. We need to look at the figures over several years, rather than months, to see any trend.

        The BBC used to be held in high regard for the accuracy of its reporting. I am disappointed but no longer surprised by this article.

        My rant seems very trivial compared with what you guys are doing.

  • Len Blakely

    What I would like to see is how military suicide rates compare to a similar slice of the general population. I ran the numbers in Canada using military data and StatsCan data. Comparing and soldiers a similar slice of the general population, suicide rates that were markedly higher as both cause of death (1st as compared to 3rd) and numbers per 100,000… among -CIVILIANS-.

    Suicide was a cause of death about 40% lower in the military when compared to a similar group of civilians if I remember correctly. Soldiers were more physically and mentally healthy, but appeared to be more prone to take risks.

    A headline reading “Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among soldiers” is certainly shocking. But it takes the data and presents it in a sensationalist and misleading way when they don’t mention that among a similar demographic of civilians it is the #1 cause of death and kills 40% more people… It’s just irresponsible journalism really.

    For the Canadian Forces, a more appropriate way to save soldiers lives would be to increase funding to programs to promote safe driving and quit smoking. I would not be surprised at all if the same was true for US numbers.

    • Justin Griffith

      Source: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2011/RAND_MG953.pdf page xiv and xv

      The raw data suggests the DoD average hovering at 16 per 100,000 compared to civilian average 10 per 100,000.

      How Does the Military Suicide Rate Compare with That of the U.S. Population?
      An important question is how the rate in the military compares with that of the general
      population. The estimated annual suicide rate in the general population for 2001–2006
      hovers at around 10 per 100,000 (CDC, 2010), notably lower than that in DoD.

      Here’s where you get that ‘similar civilian population demographic’ spoonfed to you. (put your thinking cap on for this)

      But
      these populations are not necessarily comparable, because the military and the national
      population differ so much in terms of age, sex, and racial makeup and, in part, because
      the procedures for reporting suicide data also vary, both between states and regions and
      between the nation and DoD. To derive a comparable population, RAND researchers
      calculated an adjusted suicide rate for a synthetic national population having the same
      demographic profile as DoD personnel and as each service. Figure S.2 shows the results
      of comparing DoD with the comparable segment of the U.S. population for the years
      2001–2006.
      1
      These results show that the suicide rate in the synthetic civilian population is both fairly constant and substantially higher than that in DoD. Of concern,
      however, is that the gap between DoD and the general population is closing. The mostpronounced increases in the DoD suicide rate occurred in 2007 and 2008, so, assuming that the national rate remains relatively stable in these years, the gap between the
      rate in DoD and the general population may be even narrower.

      Notice they try to synthesize a higher suicide rate for the general public to make it seem more palatable? See which factors their synthetic ‘adjusted civilian rate’ controls for? Note how they didn’t include any factors that might make the number less agreeable? The DoD pre-screens anyone for mental illness, checks to see if you’ve been prescribed anti-psychotics (and similar drugs), checks to see if you can pass a drug test, checks to see if you pass high school (or equivalent), checks to see how much debt you’re in, tests your stress in boot camp (first 180day wash-outs are separated relatively painlessly – called ‘entry level separation’)… I bet the disparity is MUCH worse than they’d have you believe.

  • http://sciencenotes.wordpress.com/ Markita Lynda—damn climate change!

    Also, in the Canadian Armed Forces, booze is incredibly cheap, which leads to a tendency to drink more. Add self-medicating for trauma and alcoholism can be a major problem.

  • kantalope

    Well – if you commit suicide you are obviously acting against god…all suicides are necessarily atheist.

    duh

    This whole spiritual test thing smacks of defining the outcome via the assumptions within the questions…check out another ftb site- reasonable doubts podcast: Episode 102: The Skeptic’s Psychology of Religion Toolkit

  • Luis Acosta

    Hello, Justin.

    In my view, chaplains should defend the 1st amendment rights of atheists as much as of religious people. In fact, the branch doesn’t seem to do a real good job of defending the 1st amendment rights even of those who are religious. When I was in the chaplain basic course, there were 5 Sabbath keepers (3 Adventists and 2 Jews) who were being given a hard time because we didn’t want to train on Saturday. If you don’t keep Sunday, you’re not part of the in-group. There are some fair-minded chaplains, for sure, but there are a whole bunch who are not.

    So I think the least we can do is to acknowledge that people have at a minimum some philosophical beliefs that sustain them through “fox hole” times. What do you think?

  • Your Mom

    I love when people that all think alike get together. You Justin are just as big a d-bag as the people pushing CRM. How about this: Everybody leave everybody alone…that includes all of you retards that support this site and people that suppport CSF

    • Justin Griffith

      That includes all of you retards that support this site and people that suppport CSF

      Wait, what? Clearly I don’t suppport CSF at all, and I think they should be shut down, or radically altered. That was the point. Are you actually on my side of this issue?


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