FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- An Armywide suicide prevention stand down is set for today.

Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III ordered an Armywide suicide stand down for today as a way to empower leadership to prevent further loss of life due to suicide.

September is recognized nationally and by the Army as Suicide Prevention Month. The theme for this year's observance is "A Healthy Force is a Ready Force."

Agencies and organizations throughout the Army are executing educational activities to focus on how to reduce the stigma associated with seeking care for behavioral health issues, as well as providing members of the Army family an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention.

In addition, public service announcements featuring senior leaders have been disseminated throughout the Army to support Army leaders. This is the Army's first suicide prevention stand down since 2009.

Austin ordered the stand down following a DoD report that 26 active-duty Soldiers were believed to have committed suicide in July. It was more than double the number reported in the previous month and the most suicides ever recorded in a month since the Army began tracking these figures.

"Suicide is the toughest enemy I've faced," Austin said. "And, it is a real, no-kidding enemy that's killing our Soldiers. It's not just an Army issue, but also an American issue. More people die by suicide each year than by homicide. And, so it's going to take all of us working together."

The suicide rate in the U.S. is twice the rate of homicides, said Helen Pridgen, South Carolina area director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Pridgen has made several visits to Fort Jackson in September to speak with Soldiers, family members and support staff about the issues surrounding suicide.

Suicide is a phenomenon that crosses all cultural boundaries, she said Tuesday during a presentation at the Post Theater.

"There's no typical victim," Pridgen said. "Most people diagnosed with depression don't go on to commit suicide. (Of those who do), 90 percent of them had a mental illness at the time of their death."

Laly Rodriguez, manager of the Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention programs for Fort Jackson, said more than 2,000 people on post have been involved with suicide prevention training throughout September.

"In October, they're sending me the numbers for the units that participated, which will to be submitted to Washington," Rodriguez said. "By the middle of October I should know the exact number of people we trained in suicide prevention."

Each unit is conducting training, either independently or in conjunction with Rodriguez supervising, she said.

"We're not just worried about suicides we're concerned with the overall fitness and well-being of our Soldiers, Army civilians, and family members," said Walter O. Morales, chief of the Army Suicide Prevention Program. "It is especially important that leaders lead the charge in changing the Army culture, wherever seeking help for suicide or other issues is stigmatized."

Page last updated Thu September 27th, 2012 at 00:00