Guard Needs to Address Growing Suicide Problem

The National Guard is facing an increase in suicides among its ranks, on track to face more than 100 this year, and the bureau needs to review its behavioral and mental health practices to reduce the problem. Air Force Lt. Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the administration’s nominee for the chief of the National Guard Bureau, said during a Senate Armed Services nomination hearing on Tuesday that the bureau had a “Health of the Force” initiative in October where it contacted every member of the Guard to identify risk factors. “This is not a problem any glossy is going to solve,” Lengyel said. “This is a human interaction issue.” The National Guard has seen an increase in its warfighting effort, while still taking part in half a million days of service to their states. The bureau needs to balance the requirements and stresses of service with other commitments, such as commitments to employers. Industry has been “remarkably supportive” of Guardsmen deploying for service, but the bureau needs to work to do things such as keeping deployments predictable to strike the right balance.