Team Lee Stresses Suicide Awareness
September 5, 2008
Fort Lee will focus its efforts for National Suicide Prevention Week, which runs Sept. 7 - 13. The U.S. Army's theme for this year is "Shoulder to Shoulder: No Soldier Stands Alone."
"The National Suicide Prevention Week is an annual event to globally promote awareness and advocacy about suicide prevention," said Col. Michael G. Morrow, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Lee commander, in a letter to Fort Lee personnel. "Important efforts are in place to address the problem of suicide, but all those involved recognize that there is still much work to be done."
While a week is set aside for awareness, Fort Lee members always have help within reach through the installation chaplain's office and the Soldier and Family Assistance Center.
"There is help available to people in their time of despair and crisis," said Chaplain (Maj.) Dennis Krumlauf, 23rd Quartermaster Brigade chaplain. "There are many people and agencies that are willing to help Soldiers on the installation."
Krumlauf said while many Soldiers go to their chaplains in their time of need, everyone needs to be aware of the signs of suicide.
"My observations are that people in crisis will seek out the chaplain," he said. "But the person may just talk to their battle buddy. That's why it's important for everyone to know if someone comes to them and they say statements like 'I can't take it anymore,' you should take steps to prevent them from harming themselves."
Shannon Alfonso, SFAC social service coordinator, said it's important for everyone to be aware when people around them need help.
"Soldiers specifically fall into ranks with each other, and they know each other best," said Alfonso. "They will notice the difference in their buddy before anyone else does. They need to ask their friends if they need help. The Soldiers need to know there will be no negative actions taken against them because they said they need help."
Keeping warning signs in mind is important, Alfonso said, but knowing the risk factors could be vital too.
"There are warning signs and then risk factors, it's best practice to be knowledgeable about both," she said. "I hear stories all the time about the suicide that no one could believe happened, and that's because they were only looking for the warning signs. We have to take the risk factors into consideration, and then we have to understand that each person's threshold to manage situations is different."
It's important for commanders to get the word out about suicide prevention, said Krumlauf.
"The higher the level of commanders to get involved, the greater emphasis of importance is placed on awareness," said Krumlauf. "The briefings help; the more we can get the word out ... and we are ... the Soldier is better off."
Krumlauf and Alfonso both agree that suicide awareness saves lives.
"Suicide awareness is important, because suicides are preventable," said Alfonso. "We all need to work on providing a suicide safe environment. Suicide is serious, and it's not just a mandatory briefing. It's a real problem in the Army right now. We need to find innovative ways to relay to our Soldiers that it is serious, it is preventable, and it is okay to get help."