Suicide prevention has no room for bystanders
September 30, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (Sept. 30, 2013) -- The Army highlights suicide prevention efforts during the month of September. However, to reduce suicidal behaviors, Soldiers and civilians must be equipped to help themselves and help each other, every day of the year. Recently when asked about reducing suicides, the vice chief of staff of the Army, Gen. John F. Campbell, said, "This is something we just can't look at in one month. It has to be a 365-day mission to make sure we can provide our Soldiers with the tools they need to deal with the stressors of everyday life, and help them understand that seeking help is a sign of strength not weakness."
There isn't one single cause of suicides among Soldiers. Most Soldiers are dealing with multiple issues in their personal life, at work, and in their environment that together may increase stress to an overwhelming level. Specific issues frequently identified among Soldiers who die by suicide include relationship problems, financial concerns and mental health issues. Often these issues are worsened by drug and alcohol use.
All Soldiers and civilians are required to participate in one hour of annual suicide prevention training throughout the year. This training is designed to provide individuals with a basic skill set to prepare them to assist someone contemplating suicide. Several one-hour in-person "Ask, Care and Escort," or ACE, trainings will be conducted during September for Soldiers and civilians in the Franconia Military Community. Additionally, many junior and first-line leaders will have the opportunity to receive more in-depth suicide intervention training throughout the year; this will enable them to provide small group suicide training to their units and function as a unit resource on the subject of suicide prevention. It's important to involve junior and first-line leaders in suicide prevention. When junior and first-line leaders are empowered and feel confident to help their Soldiers cope with, seek help for and develop solutions to problems as they arise, at-risk Soldiers are more likely to find a solution that works for them.
Suicide prevention is everyone's job. It is critical to know and look out for fellow Soldiers and co-workers. As Gen. Campbell said, "Much of it [suicide prevention], is just about knowing your Soldier, knowing if they have a financial issue, if they have gone through a breakup with a girlfriend, or if they have a problem in their marriage. It's as simple a thing as sitting down and talking to a Soldier. A lot of times a Soldier is going to keep that to himself. The more you can figure out whether a Soldier is higher risk, you will watch them a little bit more closely and make sure they have the resources to get help."
Every day we all encounter stressful events that add to the stress we are already dealing with. The amount of stress each person can cope with varies and can change depending on how long and the types of issues a person is dealing with. For some people, the break-up of a relationship may be more difficult to deal with than difficulties at work, for others it may be the opposite. For someone who is feeling suicidal, they might describe themselves as traveling in a completely dark tunnel, their path being uncertain, and that all hope is lost. Soldiers and civilians feeling suicidal shouldn't have to try to deal with their situation alone. Every Soldier and civilian has a friend, family member, battle buddy or leader to help them through the tunnel. Everyone has to get involved. There is no room for bystanders.
If you suspect someone is thinking of suicide, ask them directly, "Are you thinking of killing yourself?" care for them by actively listening and understanding their situation, and escort them to an appropriate emergency resource. Emergency resources in Ansbach and Illesheim include the military police at 09802/09841-83-114 or DSN 114, on-call chaplain 09802/09841-83-2785 or DSN 467-2785, battalion chaplain, military family life consultant at 0151-1812-3764, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 00800-1273-8255 or DSN 118, and your chain of command. It's a good idea to add these emergency resources to your cellphone now before you ever need them. Additional information and resources for Soldiers and Civilians can be found online at www.preventsuicide.army.mil.
Every suicide can be prevented, and even one suicide is too many.