By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterAugust 29, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 29, 2013) -- Suicide can be a touchy subject for people to talk about, but Army leadership feels awareness outweighs the decision to keep quiet on the matter.
September is Suicide Prevention Month and Fort Rucker is doing its part to make sure that it does what it can to bring the issue to the forefront and educate people, according to Traci Dunlap, suicide prevention program manager.
"This is a time that we use to reflect on what's going on community wide, not just in the Army because it's not just an Army issue," said Dunlap. "We're taking time out to recognize what's going on and providing events to bring the focus back to living life, and enjoying what we have going on every day with our Families and friends."
Fort Rucker's theme this year is "Embrace Life," and that's exactly what Dunlap said she hopes people will do throughout September.
Two main events will be held on the installation to bring awareness to the problem of suicide, and one is sure to get people educated in an unconventional way, said the program manager.
The "Theater of War," which is a dramatic reading of scenes from Sophocles' "Ajax" put on by Outside the Wire, is an ancient Greek war play that will come to Fort Rucker Sept. 5, and feature actors Reg. E. Cathey, whose credits include "The Wire," "Oz," and "Grimm," and Juliana Francis-Kelly, whose credits include "The Cherry Orchard," "Oedipus after Colunus," and "Burn This."
"The play reflects on war, suicide, death and the effects of war, and it's a way to relate to Soldiers in the military," said Dunlap. "What the Soldiers went through back then, some Soldiers are going through today, so to make that comparison is really interesting."
The show is meant to be a catalyst for a town hall meeting that will follow the performance to discuss not only matters of suicide, but also combat stress, alcohol and substance abuse, and the impact of war on individuals, Families and communities.
The town hall will consist of panelists who have experienced similar situations, and each panelist will tell a bit of his or her story to open up discussion with the audience.
"This is a way for us to hear (people's) feedback and have them ask their questions," said the program manager. "We want to get some dialogue going so we can find out how people feel about this topic and how it's affected others.
"That kind of thing can be therapeutic in and of itself -- just being able to speak about it," she continued. "You never know, it could be the first time that some of these people are expressing these emotions."
The event will be held in three sessions: 7:30-9:30 a.m., 10 a.m. to noon, and 1:30-3:30 p.m., and all who wish to attend must register should call 255-7010 for instructions.
Another event that the installation will host is the Strike Out Suicide Bowling Tournament Sept. 11 and 18 at the bowling center, followed by an awards luncheon Sept. 25 for awards presentations to the winners.
"We want to remind people to look and see there are a lot of great things going on here on our installation that they should take advantage of," said Dunlap.
Although the events are meant to bring the focus to suicide prevention, it's not an issue that Fort Rucker or the Army can fight alone. People need to look out for signs of suicide and be a friend to those who seem at risk, added the program manager.
"Everybody is not going to show signs of suicide, but the majority of people will show some type of sign," she said. "If they are extremely sad or depressed, especially if it's a prolonged sad or depressed state, then people should take note."
Dunlap also suggests that people stay on the look out for people that seem lonely or those that seem to be alone all the time. Also, if a person is having to deal with multiple issues at once, such as physical illness, financial problems or problems in their relationship, she suggests people try and be there for their friend.
"If a person has several of those things going on at once, it can be too hard for anyone to handle," said Dunlap.
One of the best things to do if people encounter a friend or person that indicates any of these sign is to just ask them, she said.
"You don't have to ask them about suicide immediately, just ask how they're doing," said the program manager. "You'd be amazed at what just asking something like that can open up and what kind of relief it brings for someone to be able to say what's going on with them."
Some people might feel that it's too much of a burden to take on someone else's issues or that they aren't qualified to handle issues like that, but it's not about being qualified, it's about being there for the person in a time of need, said Dunlap.
"If anything, you're qualified to be a friend or a confidant, and usually that's what they need in that split second," she said.
For more information, call 255-7010.