PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - September is the month when America and its military redouble efforts to prevent suicide and honor those who have been lost to it. It is a time to face the shortcomings in suicide prevention efforts. Case in point: The Army had 32 suspected suicides in July of 2011, the highest number on record. Furthermore, the number of Army suicides from January through July 2011 has not improved significantly compared with the last two calendar years to date.

Suicide Prevention Month is also a time to acknowledge the individual and collective efforts to help service members, family members and civilians who may be at risk of suicide. Across the world the military is aggressively adding more behavioral health and substance abuse counselors to fill the growing need for treatment services. Leaders in all branches are campaigning to fight stigma associated with seeking help for behavioral health concerns. Every day, individual service members, family members and DOD civilians reach out to those who are struggling. And every day, service members and civilians at risk are courageously coming forward to get the help they need.

This month the Presidio of Monterey will welcome special guest speaker Robert Bagosy, who lost his son, Marine Sgt. Tom Bagosy, to suicide. Mr. Bagosy will share his story at several venues Sept. 19 through Sept. 21, preceded by suicide-prevention training highlighting warning signs, intervention techniques and resources. This month, the Monterey Military News will also publish weekly articles on common myths related to suicide prevention.

The Army's suicide prevention theme for 2011 is "Shoulder to Shoulder: Building Resilience in the Army Family." Resiliency is about managing life stressors before they lead to crisis or suicidal thinking. It is about balancing work and relaxation, keeping perspective when bad things happen, and knowing when to turn to others for help. Some individuals have high levels of innate resiliency; others must work deliberately to build better coping skills.

There are several ways to intervene in the event that a subordinate, family member, colleague or friend exhibits signs that they may be thinking of suicide. Such signs include changes in mood, changes in sleeping and eating habits, agitation or depression, lack of interest in the people and activities they once enjoyed, and comments about feeling hopeless or suicidal.

Different military services have different acronyms for helping those at risk. The Army has ACE (Ask, Care, Escort). The Navy has ACT (Ask, Care, Treat). The Marine Corps has RACE (React, Ask, Care, Escort). Regardless of which model is used, the basics are the same: Acknowledge warning signs and risk factors, ask the person directly if they're thinking about suicide, allow them to talk about their pain, and assist them in getting help.

There are many resources available to assist all members of the military family, including hotlines, medical and behavioral health professionals, leadership and chaplains. Additionally, family, friends and colleagues can provide invaluable support in times of need. In the military family, no one ever has to face their problems alone.

Page last updated Mon September 12th, 2011 at 18:44