Survey identifies suicide risks in Hawaii
July 26, 2010
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Life as a Soldier or family member can be extremely demanding, challenging and, at times, test even the most resilient person.
Frequent deployments, separations from friends and family, financial uncertainties, emotional anxiety, increased alcohol and drug use, and marital difficulties are just some of the things Soldiers and military families experience, so U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii is working to help prevent these problems before they happen.
One program that works on behalf of Soldiers is the Risk Reduction Program, enforced at the commander level, which offers the Unit Risk Inventory.
The survey anonymously assesses a unit's propensity for risk in 14 areas, to include alcohol and other drug use, unit cohesion, suicide, financial problems, Army environment, self-perception and relationships.
This survey is administered 60 days before a unit deploys and results are compared to similar units on Army Hawaii installations.
The program collects data monthly from subject matter experts, including the Army Substance Abuse Program; the safety offices for 8th Theater Sustainment Command, 25th Infantry Division, 311th Signal Command, and Tripler Army Medical Center; Public Health Nursing; the Provost Marshal; Family Advocacy, Army Community Service; Casualty Assistance; and U.S. Army Garrison-Oahu Community Compliance. Based on this collected data, RRP conducts quarterly briefings.
"We draw correlations based on a number of items in the survey, such as the demographics of the unit surveyed, their family structure and some of their possible high risk behaviors," said Malena Brooks, RRP coordinator.
She then puts commanders in contact with the appropriate agency to facilitate necessary training, prevention methods and interventions.
Jennifer Miller, RRP coordinator, said the program assists commanders by providing a prevention-focused approach to view how Soldiers within a unit do or do not participate in high-risk behavior.
"We bring the collected monthly data together and show one snap-shot of the unit," she said. "This allows the (RRP) to coordinate actions on the part of installation agencies and the chain of command."
After units have redeployed and spent four to six months reintegrating, the RRP administers another anonymous post-deployment survey called the Reintegration Unit Risk Inventory.
The second part of the survey process has more questions than the pre-deployment survey, and still assesses the unit's propensity for risk in the same areas.
The results from this survey are also compared to similar units.
"The reason we have Soldiers wait four to six months until they take (R-URI) is because they can't answer the questions as soon as they come home. They don't know if they are having problems sleeping or functioning," Brooks said. "We need them to try and return to their lives first, so that they can assess whether or not the deployment has affected them adversely."
According to Miller, another advantage of this Department of the Army-mandated survey is that no Soldier gets singled out, and the entire unit benefits from training sessions, as results of these surveys provide a picture of the unit's anonymously self-reported high-risk behaviors.
Surveys can be given to any Army Hawaii unit, as long as 60 percent of the assigned strength is present.
Commanders can call the RRP at 808-655-0996 to schedule a survey for their unit.
According to a stigma study conducted by the Research Triangle Institute on behalf of the U.S. Army, 40 percent of Soldiers surveyed believe their careers will be harmed if they are in treatment for alcohol abuse.
In an ongoing effort to provide Soldiers with stigma-free programs, the Confidential Alcohol Treatment and Education Pilot was started, here, July 2009.
Soldiers with alcohol problems can self-refer to the CATEP program before they have an incident - and Soldiers' chains of command are not notified.
"Alcoholism is a chronic disease that is conducive to relapse, which is why it's important to be actively enrolled in a relapse prevention program," said Dr. James Slobodzien, clinical director for Alcohol Substance Abuse Program. "Soldiers who are enrolled in CATEP are internally motivated to seek help (more) than those in the ASAP program."
ASAP reduces the stigma associated with seeking substance abuse treatment, and strives to improve access to ASAP treatment for all Soldiers seeking help.
ASAP also provides interventions before problems adversely impact finances, health, relationships and social functioning, occupational performance, military career or fitness for duty.
"If (Soldiers) know they have an alcohol problem, they shouldn't wait until they have an incident," Slobodzien said. "By participating in CATEP, their rights will be protected. They won't get flagged for re-enlistment, and they will (still) be able to be promoted.
"It is to their benefit to come in and get treatment, so they will be able to progress in their careers," Slobodzien said.
ASAP is open Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., with extended evening hours Monday-Thursday, until 9 p.m. Call 808-433-8700.
<b>All About Army Community Service</b>
Army Community Service is another program designed to provide Soldiers, both active duty and retired, as well as families with a centrally located source of information, guidance and assistance in solving problems of a personal nature, which are beyond the scope of their own resources.
Some ACS programs include mobilization and deployment support, family advocacy, financial management and budget counseling, services for persons with disabilities, relocation services, lending closets and foster care.
ACS will also assist commanders in maintaining readiness of individuals and families by developing, coordinating and delivering services that promote self-reliance, resiliency, and stability during war and peace. Call 808-655-4227.