Lawmaker’s Plan To Institute Military Oath Against Suicide Could Backfire, Experts Say

A congressman who served in Afghanistan is championing an idea to request departing servicemembers sign an oath not to harm themselves, as a method to deter veteran suicides. But some suicide prevention experts contend the plan is likely to do the opposite. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., who took office this January, is an Army veteran who lost both of his legs in 2010 from a roadside bomb explosion in Kandahar. When promoting the “Oath of Exit” on the House floor last month, Mast said servicemembers are known for honoring their commitments – and if they commit to contacting fellow veterans before harming themselves, they’d do it. Though it’s well-intentioned, the oath – essentially a no-suicide contract – is an outdated notion proven not to work, and it could even backfire, some experts said. “It won’t work, to put it bluntly,” said Craig Bryan, a psychologist and executive director of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah. “At best, it would be a neutral effect, but it could make things worse.” When struggling with suicidal thoughts, veterans who sign the commitment could feel an increased sense of shame and guilt, Bryan explained. Caitlin Thompson, the former […]

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