Fort Bragg officials discuss suicide prevention
July 30, 2010
By Tina Ray
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - With the number of suicides and attempted suicides on the rise Army-wide, officials got together for a roundtable discussion July 21, at the Soldier Support Center to address the issue.
According to the latest Army figures, there were 32 confirmed or suspected suicides in June alone, an increase of 22 from the previous month.
On Fort Bragg, there have been four confirmed suicides since Jan. 2, said Larry Holland, suicide prevention program manager with the Army Substance Abuse Program. Holland joined four others at the roundtable discussion.
Statistically, for every suicide, there are 10 suicide attempts, Holland said.
But, Fort Bragg is full of agencies and people willing to step in to deter the increasing number of suicides.
From ASAP to primary health providers, from behavioral health and social work professionals to military Family life consultants, the help is there for Soldiers and Families who need it.
"The wonderful thing about Fort Bragg is that we have everything here that we need as a helping agency," said Emilee Owens, also a suicide prevention program manager at ASAP.
The leading triggers for suicide include personal relationship, and financial and professional failures, said Holland. The typical person who commits or attempts suicide is a young, white male, with junior rank.
Yet one overwhelming misconception about suicides is that they are caused by deployment stress.
"About 35 percent of Army-wide suicides are committed by Soldiers who never deploy," explained Holland.
Experts cannot isolate one or two years of data and form any meaningful conclusions about suicide, said Col. Edward Crandell, behavioral health director at Womack Army Medical Center. We need to focus instead on whether or not a Soldier has psychological resiliency, or the ability to bounce back from stress or setbacks.
The notion of resiliency is one that the Army is pursuing. The Army recently stood up the Master Resiliency Training Program, with trainers receiving their instruction at Fort Jackson, S.C., Holland said. If Soldiers are taught resiliency, then officials could see a decrease in suicides, he added.
In previous years, a Soldier may have worried about the stigma of seeking behavioral health assistance, but in today's Army, there is no need for concern.
"If you seek help, it is encouraged and it is seen as a sign of strength," Holland said.
The Army promotes the idea of positive intervention and self-referral. "The willingness of commanders and Soldiers to support is far better than it was five years ago, from senior Army leadership to junior Soldiers," Crandell said.
Except for serious mental healthcare issues, security clearances are not affected, Crandell added.
The effort to deter suicides is an ongoing mission in the Army. Last week, the Army released a video that addresses suicide prevention. "Shoulder to Shoulder: I will never quit on life" is a 15-minute video that offers candid interviews of Soldiers and Families, as opposed to the previously used scenario-based video.
The new video tells the story of a Soldier who had the firing pin of his weapon removed by a junior Soldier who was concerned about his emotional health. On the day the pin was removed, the Soldier attempted suicide, but failed, Holland said.
"Every Soldier will see this video and hopefully relate to it, that this really does happen between battle buddies," he said.
The Army has incorporated the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training or ASIST to help caregivers become more competent in preventing the immediate risk of suicide.
According to Holland, more than 450 persons have received ASIST training on Fort Bragg within the last few months.
In the battle to curb suicides, one fact remains clear - "All of us involved in working in this area agree that one suicide is too many," Crandell said.