Suicide hotline: get connected, get help, live now
October 31, 2013
Suicide is a stigma in our society. Service members and DoD civilians attend training to inform them of the signs of suicidal thoughts and behavior in their co-workers. Those slideshows and speeches are making headway in pushing back the enigmatic fog that people have about suicide.
There's something else being done to combat suicides in the military community. It's as easy as picking up the phone.
The "118" suicide prevention hotline became active in June 2013. Since then, several people have called when they needed someone to talk to and were met with an assured truth: There's a person at the other end of the line who is ready to listen. A real, live person waiting to take that call and help save their life.
When she was the IMCOM Region Suicide Prevention Program Manager, Jocelynn M.P.R. LaShier dedicate herself to establishing a suicide crisis hotline in Korea.
"Within the first week after I arrived I wondered if there was a suicide crisis hotline," said LaShier, the current suicide prevention program manager for U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan. "There wasn't one (hotline) so I had to get it started from the ground up.
As a mom, I know how important it is to communicate with my children," LaShier said. "If my child was having thoughts of suicide, but couldn't talk to me, I would want them to be able to talk to someone. It caused very serious concern on my part that there wasn't one (hotline). We have to have something like that in place that is at no cost to the caller."
Lashier explains she cut through rolls of red tape, making countless phone calls. Until finally, a breakthrough. Her eureka moment came when she contacted her counterpart in Europe, and got the idea to piggyback the system being used there. What seemed like an almost impossible task suddenly became a reachable goal.
It was a long and tough road that led from the first awkward steps to the last test call made by Maj. Gen. Bishop, from his own cell phone, at precisely 2:30 pm, Jun. 14, 2013.
If any Service members and DoD civilians are having thoughts of suicide or have the intention of going through with the act, they can get help fast. All they have to do is dial 1-1-8 on a DSN line, or 0808-555-118 toll-free from any cell phone or land-line in Korea. If a phone call is too personal, a live Internet-based chat service is also available at www.militarycrisisline.net. All calls are confidential and answered by trained crisis counselors.
"When you dial the hotline number the call goes directly to the Primary Call Center in New York," LaShier explains. "If an immediate response is needed, then a 360 degree system, currently only available in Korea, is in place to get a police officer dispatched to take care of the caller."
Many efforts are being made to prevent suicides, but the statistics are still staggering. Each life lost takes another precious resource from the military family. Suicide prevention training isn't just about checking the block; it's about saving lives.
Guest speaker and author, Andrew O'Brien visited the USAG-Y South Post Chapel earlier this month to share his story and talk about suicide and post traumatic stress disorder. O'Brien is a former Army Soldier and PTSD sufferer. He attempted suicide and now lives to give hope to those who struggle with thoughts of self-harm.
"I deployed to Iraq in 2008 and 2009. In 2010 I decided to take my own life, due to PTSD," O'Brien explains to his audience. O'Brien was a gunner on convoys and survived an IED attack. He recently published a book called 'Welcoming your soldier home.'
"Part of my goal is to help military families because they are the ones there when the soldiers come home. And the Soldiers have difficulty getting certain images out of their minds," O'Brien said. "As a soldier, I went to war, and came back home again. But then I was at war with myself."
That inner war is one of the reasons why the suicide hotline now exists. There's an easy way to get help. Pick up the phone and make the call.
"It's very important that we all know about this resource. It could save your life or the life of someone you know." LaShier pleads. "Help is only a phone call away, so please share the number with your friends and family."
For more information, or if you need help, please visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/.