Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fighting Army Suicides With Positive Psychology

The most interesting thing I learned at the World Congress of Positive Psychology today was reported by the founder of the discipline, Martin Seligman. The Army has been working with several big names in the field, including Seligman, to test and train soldiers to make them more resilient, and to identify people needing help early.

A well-being test developed by Chris Peterson and colleagues was given to all soldiers last year. Two of the crucial measures of well-being ask people whether they think their life has meaning, and whether they think their work has meaning. Those soldiers who scored in the bottom one percent on both measures had the worst subjective well-being in the Army.

They then looked at the test results for the 84 soldiers who committed suicide during the year. Half the suicides were in the lowest one percent on both well-being measures.

The Army is training drill sergeants to teach soldiers to be more resilient. With results like these, the Army can know where to pinpoint its training so it will do the most good.

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