Religion in Society

Using the Bible to Combat Rising Rate of Suicide in Military

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LINCOLN, NE -- The Center for Bible Engagement (CBE), a leading research and development think tank that promotes relationship with God through regular Bible engagement, is launching 411God Hope for the Heroes, a "high-touch, high-tech" suicide prevention tool designed to reach at-risk service men and women with daily 60-second inspirational mobile phone messages.

The launch will serve to heighten public awareness of the increasing number of soldier suicides--a figure that is higher than it's been in 30 years -- exceeding even that of the civilian population. Statistics compiled from McClatchy Newspapers, Rand Corporation and the Veteran's Administration cite a staggering 6,552 veterans per year committing suicide with over 300,000 military service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan reporting symptoms of PTSD -- a leading indicator of suicide.

"To know that 18 veterans a day are killing themselves is simply not acceptable to us," says Dr. Arnie Cole, a former mental health professional and now CBE's Director of Research & Development. Cole has conducted extensive research on the correlation between behavior and Bible reading including a recent 5-year study that concluded that those who read or listen to the Bible at least four times a week are a lot more likely to successfully navigate a host of societal ills such as emotional sickness, marital problems as well as destructive behaviors like drug dependency--all issues suffered in even greater extremes by PTSD sufferers.

From that study, CBE developed 411God for the general population. Launched in January of 2009, the free service now boasts 20,000 subscribers. Its success, in turn, spawned 411God Hope for the Heroes. Like its "civilian" counterpart, Hope for the Heroes' daily mobile messages are pre-recorded, fully customizable and can be received any time of day or night. What makes the military version of 411God unique is that they are scripted from conversations with real soldiers suffering from PTSD.

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For Alicia Reisinger, a local producer and now CBE staffer who serves as the soothing voice behind these 411God messages of hope and encouragement, Hope for the Heroes is intensely personal -- both her brother and another close relative who combined have done several tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, suffer from PTSD. Like most soldier PTSD sufferers, the two men haven't sought out medical treatment for fear of damaging their career, having their "comrades-in-arms" lose confidence in their abilities as well as real concern about the side effects of prescribed medications.

Which begs the question: Can a scripture a day help keep the demons away from the over 300,000 active soldiers currently suffering from PTSD? "Unequivocally yes," states Reisinger who credits the daily 411God calls her brother receives as instrumental in helping him through the worst of PTSD's symptoms, including images of war scenes that he relives almost nightly.

To help reach their immediate goal or reaching 50,000 at-risk soldiers by January 31, 2010, CBE is asking individuals, churches and interested organizations to download promotional materials, such as DVD's, banners and flyers from their web site, then distribute those materials throughout their communities. For more information and to download informational materials visit: www.hopefortheheroes.com.