Pentagon holds suicide prevention health fair
September 16, 2011
By J.D. Leipold
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 16, 2011) -- In observance of National Suicide Prevention Month, the Army set up a health fair in the Pentagon courtyard Sept. 14-15 for the military branches to bring to the forefront the services they offer to help service members and veterans who are contemplating suicide.
Though suicide prevention is a year-round issue, Jan Morgan, with the Army Suicide Prevention Program said the objective to hosting the fair was to get suicide prevention out and up front because many service members at the Pentagon are not fully aware of the resources available to them in helping to prevent suicides.
Based on Army news releases, CNN reported that as of July 31, the Army had 151 Soldiers take their lives since the beginning of the year. The number could be as high as 163, but 12 deaths were not confirmed to be suicides at the time of the report. In the same six-month period, the Air Force reported 28 suicides, the Marine Corps 21 and the Navy 33.
"We're trying to showcase, educate and inform people about the myriad of resources available to people for behavioral health," said Morgan, who added that the Department of Defense, the sister services and non-federal entities such as the Suicide Prevention Resources Centers, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors were represented.
Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, the Real Warriors Campaign, the American Association of Suicidology and the Yellow Ribbon program among others were also represented
"We've got people who saw the tents and signs while walking down the halls of the Pentagon who come out here and started picking up material because they're interested in what they need to know to inform and educate themselves on suicide prevention and awareness," Morgan said. "Soldiers are transient, so they're taking this knowledge and taking it with them to other places."
Part of the Army's suicide prevention efforts is the ACE program -- Ask, Care, Escort.
"We would expect a Soldier to recognize the signs, or symptoms of someone who is suicidal and talk with them, care for them, then escort them to help, whether that's the chaplain, behavioral health resources or chain of command," Morgan said.
Jane Shea, director of the Pentagon Employee Assistance Program, a counseling service for federal civilian employees, said her clinic aims to address an employee's personal problems, from stress to serious mental health issues like continued depression and suicidal ideation, then get that employee the right services as early as possible.
She said all bases, except for very small posts have some kind of counseling program to help civilian employees. In those locations where there are a small number of civilians, there should be a toll-free number provided by the command where civilians can get a referral to a counselor.
Chief Warrant Officer Stephen Flamm represents the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program that was created in 2008 in support of the Army National Guard.
"The program provides services, resources and community outreach to Soldiers who are deploying, their family members and suicide prevention is part of that," he said. During deployments counselors are available to speak with spouses about what to expect when their Soldiers return and how they might have been affected by the deployment.
Psychologist Caitlin Thompson oversees the clinical work for Veterans Administration's crisis line and chat service whereby veterans and active servicemembers can write in and talk with any one of their 150 responders.
"All our responders are have some level of mental health background -- masters' degrees in social work, mental health counseling," she said. "We have registered nurses and about 30 percent of the staff are veterans themselves."
The responders take phone calls and makes assessments of what the crisis is and how the individual is doing presently. She said the crisis center is taking about 600 calls a day.
"One of the beautiful pieces of our service is we have connections to every local VA center across the country through what are called suicide prevention coordinators or SPCs," Thompson said. "What we do when somebody calls is ask if they'd like a consult done with their local SPC. If they do, we guarantee a local SPC will call them back within 24 hours."