Utah’s Hill Air Force Base probes rash of suicides

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The top officer at Utah’s Hill Air Force Base has ordered an investigation into a rash of suicides there, including a look at whether prescription drug abuse may be a contributing factor. The base has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, with four confirmed cases this year involving three civilian employees and one airman. There were eight suicides there last year and at least five in 2008. Gen. Andrew Busch, commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Center, said at a news conference Friday they have found “no common threads or single contributing factors” in the deaths. “There are a lot of things we’re looking at,” said Busch, who identified suicide as one of the problems he would focus on when he took command of the logistics center at the base in July 2009. “One of the things we’re looking at is the illegal use of prescription drugs,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune. “We are exploring what the options are to determining whether or not that type of behavior is going on.” Suicide rates have steadily climbed on the base since 2005. From 2001 to 2004, base suicides ranged between two and three employees. But recently, the rate has soared, peaking last year with eight, the Desert News reported. The base hired a new psychologist in March to help address the problem. Officials also have created the Wingman Advocate Program, a support system that encourages civilians and military to contact one of 18 designated employees to discuss issues they are having at work or home.

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