'If you're going to ask for help ... they're going to chastise you'

'If you're going to ask for help ... they're going to chastise you' »Play Video
Jared Hagemann
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- A record-setting month for soldier suicides has the U.S. Army taking the offensive, saying it's making every effort to prevent them.

But the families of some of those soldiers say the military is not doing enough.

The Army says suicide prevention is a top priority, with scores of programs in place to help identify someone in trouble. But several families of the soldiers who took their own lives say the programs are falling short, and their loved ones paid the price.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are really taking their toll, both in the combat field and in the heads of soldiers. The Army says July hit a record for potential suicides at 22.

The mother of Spc. Jonathon Gilbert says her son committed suicide in Lakewood because he didn't want to return to combat after one tour in Iraq.

"He shot himself in the head just above the temple," said mother Karrie Champion.

Just one month earlier, the wife of Army Ranger Jared Hagemann says her husband committed suicide on base because he didn't want to be deployed a ninth time.

"He wanted out," said wife Ashley Hagemann. "We both tried. It's the military who didn't do a damn thing."

The leaders at Joint Base Lewis-McChord say the Army now has dozens of programs aimed at preventing suicide.

"We send our condolences to the families. It's definitely something hard to hear when you lose any soldier," said suicide prevention program manager Vicki Duffy. "For every soldier we lose, we save thousands of soldiers who are dealing with depression or post-traumatic stress or life stressors...soldiers who are going through a divorce, soldiers who have lost a loved one."

The families of the soldiers who've taken their lives say when soldiers ask for help, they get stigmatized.

"They may have all of these fancy-dancy little programs over there, but the guys have to go and find the help," Champion said.

The Army claims it's making headway on that.

"We've set up programs, different ways that soldiers can get into the counseling services and behavior health to specifically combat the issue of stigma," said Col. Jeff Foe, an I Corps surgeon.

"That's bull," Hagemann said. "If you're going to ask for help, no matter what you're going to be, they're going to chastise you, no matter what."

The Army says there's really no way of knowing what causes soldiers to end their lives. They don't know if it's combat or family troubles, or financial issues, since the person who holds the answers is now gone.