Be observant, take action, continue to save lives
April 23, 2010
FORT McPHERSON, Ga., (April 22, 2010) - Compared to a year ago, suicides within U.S. Army Forces Command are down by four percent; that's the good news.
Unfortunately, even a single suicide is still one too many.
That's why it's important for the Army community to continue to be accountable to and for the Soldier(s) in our lives.
"Suicide is not someone else's problem," said Gen. Charles C. Campbell, FORSCOM commander. "It's our problem ... (to prevent someone) from seeking a permanent and tragic solution to a temporary problem."
Whether as a leader or battle buddy, husband or wife, son or daughter, or simply the neighbor next door to a Soldier, it's important to be observant and to be ready to take action to save a life.
"Any life lost, whether to an incident of suicide or because of wounds sustained in combat, is a tragic and unfortunate situation," said Bobby Norton, FORSCOM G-1 Strategic Integration specialist. "That is why it is the responsibility of every person who comes in contact with a Soldier, professionally or personally, to take an interest in making sure the Soldier is okay."
Some signs to look for when observing an individual who may be contemplating suicide include, but are not limited to, expressions of suicidal thoughts (or threats), self-destructive acts, depression, withdrawal from daily activities and personality changes.
To continue to gain insight about - and of how to prevent - suicide within the Command, FORSCOM made it mandatory for units to conduct formal (15-6) investigations whenever there is a completed suicide. Senior leaders at the Pentagon liked the FORSCOM approach, so this practice has been expanded across the force, and it is now policy Army-wide.
In January 2010, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli challenged the various levels of Army leadership, military and civilian, to be more observant of their personnel. Chiarelli said all Army leaders should continually remind Army personnel that their "Army remains committed to help, support and assist them to meet hardships head-on, no matter the struggle, stressor or challenge."
Norton said that if you discover that someone is considering suicide, you should act fast to make certain the troubled person receives help.
"Soldiers are able to receive help from their chaplain, unit leadership and (from) Army healthcare professionals," he said. "There are even various online resources for Soldiers and civilians to utilize."
Some of those online resources include:
Aca,!Ac National Suicide Hotline: (800) SUICIDE (784-2433),
Aca,!Ac Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE): www.save.org,
Aca,!Ac The American Association of Suicidology: www.suicidology.org,
Aca,!Ac Suicide Prevention Action Network: www.spanusa.org,
Aca,!Ac Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov,
Aca,!Ac Befrienders International: www.befrienders.org,
Aca,!Ac Youth Suicide Prevention Information: http://spyc.sanpedro.com/suicide.htm,
Aca,!Ac For Better Times (for those considering suicide): www.forbettertimes.com.
FORSCOM remains committed to the overall Army effort to eliminate suicide within its ranks, said Norton. Ultimately, though, it's the FORSCOM leaders (Soldier and civilian) at all levels who are responsible for the well-being of their Soldiers, DA Civilians and military Families.
He said that responsibility also includes leaders sharing information with their counterparts at other units or organizations. Just because a troubled Soldier or civilian is transitioning to a new unit or organization doesn't mean that he or she no longer needs help. The information a leader may share with another could pertain to past suicide attempts (if any) or any behavior consistent with an individual who may be contemplating suicide, Norton explained.
Gen. Campbell summed it best. "Every Soldier, every Family member, every member of our work force needs to be able to recognize the symptoms of those who are contemplating suicide and be prepared to make an intervention," he said.
Progress is being made, but, sadly, this tragic problem still remains in the Army's ranks. Among active-duty Soldiers in March, there were 13 (11 active Army; one Army National Guard; one Army Reserve) potential suicides: one (active Army) has been confirmed as suicide, and 12 (10 active Army; one Army National Guard; one Army Reserves) remain under investigation.