Suicide prevention is key in Army
October 4, 2012
Fort Huachuca, AZ. - As part of the Army's September's National Suicide Prevention month, Fort Huachuca's Army Substance Abuse Program held a installation wide event, Stand Down Day for Suicide Prevention on Sept. 27.
The discussions were mandatory and were held at three different locations and times throughout the day, giving the more than 6,000 attendees a chance to participate. The lectures were held at Cochise Theater, Murr Community Center and Eifler Fitness Center.
The discussion was held to ensure Soldiers and leaders are equipped with the skills necessary to recognize when an individual shows warning signs of suicide and high-risk behavior, and the actions to take when they identify that those stressors have become overwhelming, according to the mission statement.
The theme for the 2012 Stand Down was "Shoulder to Shoulder, We Stand Up for Life." The event was for all Soldiers and Army civilians, with Family members encouraged to attend and participate on a voluntary basis.
"We have been at war for 11 years now, and there are a lot of people carrying around a lot of baggage. War is not a fun endeavor. Being away from your family is not a fun endeavor, so that creates stress and folks look at other options because they can't seem to find a way out or they don't want to get help," said Maj. Gen. Gregg Potter, commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca.
"I am here to tell you, you are not weak if you go out and seek help. You're strong. Those of you who heard the sergeant major of the Army talk -- he is not bashful about talking about going to get counseling for his issues. When somebody is acting differently you need to get in there, you need to talk to them, get them to talk and find out what's going on and get them the help that they need," Potter said.
"Sometimes that means directing them, leaders directing to get the help that they need. We have great, great facilities on this post. We are very fortunate that we are a small post and our facilities are not overloaded like some of the other larger posts so there is no reason why you can't get whatever help you need right here on Fort Huachuca or if we don't have it, you can certainly get it down town or in other places," he added.
"I need you all to pay attention to this, I need you all to take this seriously, I need you all to do everything you possibly can to reduce this in the Army, now do I think that we are going to eliminate this in the Army? No unfortunately not, I wish there was a magic wand I could wave and say ok, no more suicide, that's not going to happen, but if we can save one person, one person as a result of what we are telling you today, then to me the time spent is worth more than all the money in the world," Potter said to the crowded room.
During the presentation, a movie "Shoulder to Shoulder, Finding Strength and Hope Together," was shown. "These situations that you are going to see here, you are going to recognize them, it's life and it doesn't get any easier. And you are going to see what people did in order to get through," said Suicide Prevention Program Manager Leta Myers, Army Substance Abuse Program.
Myers touched on some of the risk factors involved when it comes to suicide, "over 50 percent of those who attempt suicide, attempt it again within five years. High risk folks, the two things you hear most often from people is, "I'm not afraid anymore and I will do it right next time," the failures are gone for them so we need to be extra cautious and more aware. Seventy-three percent of all suicides have alcohol, cocaine, marijuana or heroin involved. You can not process information, you can not use your cognitive ability when you are under the influence of substances, and we lose a lot of people to that," she added.
The top causal factors for suicide behaviors are relationship issues, finances and losses such as divorce or separations. Warning signs for suicide are mood changes, anger, giving away possessions and making final arrangement statements.
There is absolutely no shame, none whatsoever, in saying 'I'm empty, I can't do this, I don't know what to do.' That is when you know exactly what to do, you call others and you gather as many as you can in order to help this person. We are not asking you to have all the answers, we're asking you to take steps to help," Myers said.
"Suicide is so prevalent in our communities We have the highest rising group right now, our baby boomers, and we have a high rise in children 8 to 13 years old, wow! We all have to be involved in that. So the focus at least the spotlight needs to be placed as often as we can and this is the Army's way of spotlighting what's a problem for us," she said.
For anyone seeking help call the national suicide hotline, it is confidential and always available, 1.800.273.TALK (8255).