Sgt Sassy gets serious
April 28, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - "I just can't do this anymore."
Let's face it. You've thought about it. If we were all honest with each other we'd say, "yeah, there was a time in my life where the pain was so sharp I thought I just couldn't do this anymore."
Who hasn't, in their weakest moment, thought of suicide - or maybe wished for a car to hit them, an IED to go off, some sort of death to ease the pain' I'm sure there are pockets of people who have never had these thoughts, but for the rest of us, sometime during our life, the thought has crossed our minds. But there is a divide between a fleeting moment of weakness and reoccurring thoughts of suicide.
According to a Pentagon report released last August, one Soldier commits suicide every 36 hours. Every 36 hours. Is that not outrageous to anyone else' There has to be a change.
I've only encountered one suicide in my life and I can't speak for others who have been left behind, but I can talk about how I felt. Though I felt sadness and though I did wish there were things I had done differently, the truth is, I mostly felt anger. I felt as though they truly only thought about themselves. Though their pain was permanently eased, it was bought at the price of my pain and the pain of others - an exquisite pain that only increased in the days and weeks that passed.
I kept asking - why didn't they just ask for help' There are so many resources available for Soldiers, civilians, adults, children, men and women to get help and move on with a full life.
We as Soldiers are trained to be tough and our Families have resiliency training - but we all bleed. Sometimes we don't know who to talk to ... the chaplains are a great place to start. You don't need a referral and they are available every day but you have to reach out.
Your leadership is another source of help - but leaders also have a responsibility. Leaders have to know their Soldiers and know their stories. They have to create an environment that generates trust. If Soldiers are afraid of you, they're not going to talk to you. If they don't trust you to help them with their "small" problems how can you expect them to trust you when they have serious problems'
We, as battle buddies to others, have to be willing to take what we learn in suicide training and apply it. We are taught to ask, care and escort (ACE). If you see someone who may be acting different, ask them what's wrong, then care by listening, staying calm and removing harmful items. If they say they are thinking about hurting themselves, don't just talk about getting help, go with them (escort).
The stigma surrounding suicidal thoughts needs to be eradicated. Seeking help should be a natural reaction not a decision made after a long struggle. When we are thirsty, it is a natural reaction to quench our thirst. We aren't embarrassed to grab a bottle of water ourselves, or to ask a friend to help us get a drink. It's a natural reaction. The same should be applied to seeking medical or mental help. When you start to have suicidal thoughts, your natural reaction should be to seek help - either yourself or ask a friend to help you. Don't be embarrassed. Speak up and your friends will help you. And if they don't or if you're afraid they're going to harass you or gossip - get new friends. Or call me. We can talk over manicures or over a paintball game.
I'm not okay with losing a Soldier every 36 hours - are you' We have an enemy out there that wants to destroy us. We are so quick to train ourselves to defeat a physical enemy we only see during deployments and so slow to defeat an enemy that follows us to our homes. That has to change and we have to take suicide seriously. Life is hard, but that's what makes it worth having. We work shoulder to shoulder, we fight shoulder to shoulder - now let's live.
"These are the times that try men's souls. [...] yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value." - Thomas Paine
If you need someone to talk to:
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Military One Source: 1-800-342-9647
The Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE): 1-866-966-1020
Army G-1, Army Well Being Liaison Office: 1-800-833-6622