Anti-suicide app aims to help soldiers

Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:52pm EST
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By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - U.S. soldiers facing emotional problems and contemplating suicide may soon be able to use a smart phone application to connect them to help.

The Tennessee National Guard, the state's reserve military force, launched a pilot program of the "Guard Your Buddy" app that was spearheaded by Clark Flatt, president and CEO of the Jason Foundation.

Major General Terry "Max" Haston, the commander of the Tennessee National Guard, approached Flatt, who launched the app in October 1997 after his teenage son Jason committed suicide, about using the app for his soldiers.

Flatt said suicides in the National Guard have risen 450 percent since 2004. He and Haston hope to spread the app nationwide in National Guard units.

"We hope soldiers will download this smart phone application and pass it on to their fellow troops to ensure they have someone to talk to in times of trouble," Haston said. "It's difficult to predict if or when a member of our guard family will face suicidal thoughts, but we want them to be able to get help if they need it."

The National Guard Bureau's suicide prevention program shows that 362 National Guard members nationwide committed suicide since 2007, and another 23 cases are under investigation.

Haston convinced Flatt that the Jason Foundation's goal of addressing youth suicide also applies to the National Guard.

"A lot of the people we're talking about as having these issues are young guardsmen, 18-24 years old," Flatt said. "We found a lot of problems were (about) relationships and finance."   Continued...