Suicide prevention instrumental in sustaining strong military force
September 16, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - A post-deployment bout with depression caused Fort Bragg Suicide Prevention Program manager and former chaplain, Larry Holland, his marriage of 32 years.
Holland's depression was so severe that it led to excessive drinking and had him contemplating suicide. But instead, he eventually found help, which, saved his life and allowed him to salvage his career. He explained his experience.
"This is where the stigma part comes in," Holland said. "There were people that I could have and should have reached out to for help and I didn't. I pushed them aside because of the shame and stigma, but I did finally realize that I'd better get some help or else, I'll lose everything."
Holland retired earlier this year after 20 years of service and has been working in his current job since February.
He said it's important to let Soldiers know that they are not alone during bouts of depression or as they're experiencing suicidal thoughts.
"I'm willing to tell my personal story so that people can put a face and a name on it and know that, 'hey, it happened to this guy, too,'" Holland said. "First of all, we've got a serious problem with suicidal behavior."
He said the Army community has to address what the Army has done and what it is looking to do to deal with these issues.
"I want to tie it in so that people can see that what happened to me was in 2003 and 2004," Holland explained. "We've come a long way and have a long way to go, with programs to answer the needs of people who are in that same situation."
Holland explained that the Army Suicide Prevention Program is only two years old. He said before that, there was a suicide awareness program, which is in the chaplains' lane. Under the former program, the chaplain was responsible for conducting all of the force's awareness training, which was then an annual requirement.
"Now, we've gone beyond that to have a prevention program in place that's managed installation-wide and addresses all the training needs to try to reduce incidents," he explained.
One important factor Holland pointed out is that the Army Suicide Prevention Program is evolving. In a short time, the service has moved from not having a dedicated program to establishing one that not only looks toward prevention, but it also focuses on risk reduction.
Holland also pointed out that the, ACE, the ask, care and escort initiative serves as a valuable tool within the suicide prevention program.
"It's a really quick and good method of identifying someone who may be in trouble," he said. "The ACE card is given to every Soldier and briefed to them to look out for yourself and for your buddy. Don't be afraid to ask him the question, 'Are you thinking about hurting yourself'' Stay with them and let them know you care and are concerned and escort them to the help they need."
Holland said it's a great tool developed by Dr. James W. Cartwright of the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
(Editor's note: This story is part three of a four-part series, concerning suicide awareness and prevention that will run in the Paraglide consecutively, as we spotlight Suicide Prevention Month in September.)