Soldiers contemplating suicide need to seek help themselves
July 12, 2012
FORT BELVOIR, Va. (July 12) -- Soldiers and Family members on post who are having suicidal thoughts need to speak up and let someone know they need help.
There are a number of services on post available to Soldiers and Family members who are thinking of harming themselves.
They just need to let someone know they need help.
"The Soldier (or Family member) that may be contemplating suicide needs to go to their direct leadership and explain they have issues," said 1st Sgt. Bradley E. Scott, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Headquarters Battalion, Fort Belvoir, first sergeant. "You can't solve things on your own. You have to let leadership get involved so they can (get) the individual to the proper counseling."
Going directly to their first sergeant is one of the best options a Soldier can utilize if they are having suicidal thoughts. It is welcomed and encouraged by Scott as first sergeants are trained to recognize if a Soldier is having a change in attitude, appearance or job performance.
"The command team; commander, executive officer or first sergeant, is trained to respond if a Soldier comes to them and says they are contemplating suicide," said Scott. "We are trained to ask the right questions to get the information out of the Soldier. You can't be afraid to ask the question 'Are you thinking of killing yourself.' You have to ask that question sometimes."
HHC holds suicide prevention classes on a regular basis. The classes review recognizing the warning signs of a Soldier who is contemplating suicide and what their fellow Soldiers can do to get the troubled Soldier help.
The classes also encourage Soldiers who are thinking of harming themselves to not be afraid to tell someone and get the help they need.
The Employee Assistance Program Suicide Prevention Program, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital's Behavioral Health Department and the suicide prevention lifeline are among the other options available. The EAP Suicide Prevention Program manager can be reached at (703) 805-5981, and the FBCH Behavioral Health Department can be reached at (703) 805-0393. The national Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24-hours-a-day at (800) 273-TALK (8255) or someone can chat online by going to their website at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Soldiers afraid to speak up because they think asking for help is a sign of weakness or will prevent them from being promoted don't need to worry about that.
Many Soldiers in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, Army need counseling from the stress put on them from multiple deployments.
"It's never going to be held against a Soldier for seeking help," Scott said. "That's really picked up the last 10 years with the facts about post-traumatic stress disorder coming out. So, seeking help doesn't have the stigma it had 15 years ago. There are too many Soldiers, now, that need the help for anyone to look at them like they are weak."
Soldiers also do not have to disclose to their commander why they need help. All they have to do is say "I need help" and they are free to do so, according to Timothy Wolfe, Fort Belvoir Police Department police chief, whose law enforcement responsibilities include responding to attempted suicide and suicidal gesture calls.
"You don't have to let the world know you are having issues. The military will let you go seek treatment. It's completely confidential," said Wolfe. "You don't need to tell them what the specific problem is. The government and military will give you the time you need to address those problems."
Not only are Soldiers dealing with more deployments, but they are also trying to raise Families in tough economic times. Financial stress, coupled with the stress of returning from deployment, is too much for some Soldiers to handle by themselves.
However, there is another reason many Soldiers in the National Capital Region are having issues when they return from deployment.
Many Soldiers deploying from the NRC are Individual Augmentee's, which means they deploy overseas by themselves, or with one other person, to a unit they are not familiar with.
As a result, many of the Soldiers do not go through the pre-deployment and re-integration classes units are required to take before and after deployment.
"They are plucked out of a busy unit here and it leaves a hole in the unit. That person isn't supported by the unit they left, because they aren't together," said Carol Janer, Mobilization and Deployment program, program manager. "The unit may say 'Hey, if you need anything let us know.' But, then that Family is forgotten."
Along with the Soldier asking for help, unit members can help, too. If a Soldier sees warning signs from another unit member, that Soldier shouldn't be afraid to ask them if they are going through a tough time, or thinking of harming themselves.
"One of the things Soldiers find it hard to do is ask," said Scott. "'Hey, are you thinking of hurting yourself?' Even though that Soldier may say no, you can pick up warning signs that show something is going on."
Scott also said looking out for a Soldier who might be considering suicide is no different than taking care of a friend on the battlefield.
"It's a team effort, just like being on the battlefield, when you are watching your buddy's rear to make sure there are no sneak attacks," said Scott. "Suicide is a sneak attack. You may not think the guy behind you is having issues, but he could, so you have to watch out for him. It's a team effort."