The top story on the front page of today's New York Times reports that the U.S. Army is going to require that its soldiers–all 1.1 million of them–take an intenstive training course meant to strengthen their emotional resilience.
"The training, the first of its kind in the military," writes the Times's Benedict Carey, "is meant to improve performance in combat and head off the mental health problems, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide, that plague about one-fifth of troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
The program draws on the work of Aaron Beck, founder of cognitive behavioral therapy, and Martin Seligman, a founder of positive psychology. It's essentially designed to improve soldiers' emotional intelligence, helping them become more attuned to their emotional responses and recognize how unchecked emotions can induce violence, aggression, or even suicide.
Programs like this have become a mainstay of grade school curricula, but they've never been introduced to the military. This one's long overdue, with tens of thousands of U.S. veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at heightened risk of committing suicide or acts of violence against others.
Indeed, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army's chief of staff, tells Carey that "the mental effects of repeated deployments — rising suicide rates in the Army, mild traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress — had convinced commanders 'that we need a program that gives soldiers and their families better ways to cope.'"