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Blackout window shades at Alaska Army base aimed to reduce depression, suicides

Blackout window shades, newly installed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, are a part of the U.S. Army's anti-suicide initiative. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army
Blackout window shades, newly installed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, are a part of the U.S. Army's anti-suicide initiative. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

March 10 (UPI) -- Blackout window shades are being installed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, a U.S. Army colonel said, as part of a military anti-suicide program.

Col. Adam Lange, U.S. Army Alaska's deputy commander for sustainment, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the shades have been installed in all barracks occupied by soldiers, with several other barracks awaiting renovation.

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Fort Wainwright, 140 miles from the Arctic Circle, is a common relocation posting for U.S. soldiers returning from the Middle East, but features long periods of winter darkness and nearly constant summer sunlight.

Soldiers' circadian rhythms, which regulate sleep and wakefulness and by extension their mental health, are disrupted, according to reports.

The fort is referred to as the home of the Army's "Arctic Warrior Athletes."

A study at the installation noted that five soldiers died by suicide in the year ending June 2019, and researchers found that inadequate sleep was a factor in the depression leading to their deaths.

About one-third of soldiers surveyed in the study mentioned disrupted sleep habits, with about 40 percent of those mentioning extended daylight as a cause.

Lange said the project was developed so "Every on of our soldiers, our Arctic Warrior Athletes, can get quality sleep."

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The announcement was first reported by the website Stars & Stripes.

The project in Alaska is one of several initiatives that has been undertaken in the last year by the Pentagon to reduce the suicide rate among active duty and retired personnel.

In February, the Air Force announced a peer-to-peer support group to enable members to seek help, an element of a strategy directed toward encouraging airmen to take proactive steps.

It also encourages contact with Military One Source, a 24/7 call center and website providing information and assistance, an established "Question, Persuade and Refer," a suicide prevention training program.

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