By Karl Weisel, USAG WiesbadenSeptember 30, 2013
WIESBADEN, Germany (Sept. 30, 2013) -- Hundreds of Soldiers and civilians filled the Wiesbaden Fitness Center here, Sept. 24, during Wiesbaden's Ready and Resilient training day.
With the focus on suicide prevention, members of the audience heard the cold hard facts from subject matter experts, learned about the many resources available for help and engaged in a little friendly competition to relieve stress and build camaraderie.
"We are losing too many people in our Army today," said U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Command Sgt. Maj. Sa'eed Mustafa, in opening the community-wide suicide stand-down event. "Collectively we want to mitigate this thing called suicide."
Describing a young Soldier in his unit who committed suicide early in his career and years later a fellow non-commissioned officer and friend who did likewise after retiring from the service, Mustafa said, "these events stay with you for a lifetime."
Staying tuned to any possible warning signs is critical, he added.
"It's been said that for every suicide about 35 other people are impacted," said Hollis Champlain, community risk reduction coordinator, describing the families, friends and others whose lives are changed significantly when someone close makes that fatal decision.
Since the start of 2013, some 219 Soldiers have committed suicide Army-wide, Champlain said, putting it into context by saying, "about the entire size of the 1st Military Intelligence Battalion."
Champlain also pointed out that while one might assume the stresses of combat might be a factor, most suicide victims had never deployed in their careers.
Dr. Robert Rucinski, chief of Behavioral Health Services, detailed potential warning signs leaders, friends, family and coworkers must stay tuned to in an effort to help those in need:
-- talking about suicide (often in a joke form)
-- seeking the means to commit suicide
-- having a preoccupation with death
-- sudden changes in emotion (or seeming not to care about anything anymore)
-- giving possessions away
-- saying goodbye
-- withdrawal from others
-- self-destructive behavior
Rucinski said ways leaders can help prevent suicide is by:
-- knowing their Soldiers and building a relationship
-- listening and understanding one another
-- being available when needed; *
-- recognizing that depression is not a sign of weakness
-- using the ACE model -- Ask, Care and Escort.
"Don't leave someone at risk," he said. "Do whatever it takes to get the person the professional help he or she needs."
While detailing the resources and assistance chaplains can provide anyone seeking help or considering suicide as an option to life's troubles, USAG Wiesbaden Garrison Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Harold Cline said, "You can go in and talk to a chaplain and have 100 percent confidentiality."
Saying chaplains stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their fellow service members, family members and civilians, Cline said, "There's a lot we can do to help you when you are facing a difficult situation."
In addition to the warning signs of suicide, leaders, friends and family should also be on the lookout for anyone who might be "self medicating" -- abusing alcohol or drugs.
Dr. Richard Wargel, senior counselor for the garrison's Army Substance Abuse Program, asked anyone in this situation to "take the courage you had downrange to come over to our office."
People can get more information about ASAP help available by calling mil 337-1710 or civ (0611) 705-1710, he said.
Likewise, Jan Meert, Wiesbaden's Army Community Service director, and Michael Robinson, chief of Social Work Services, said it's important for those in need to seek help as early as possible.
"People will help you if you let them know you are struggling," said Robinson. "Ask for help -- people are generally open to helping -- and if they are not able to, they will help you get assistance."
"If you think that suicide is an issue for deployments or units that recently experienced deployments, you're wrong," said Col. David Carstens, USAG Wiesbaden commander, in closing the event. "If you're a commander or first sergeant out there and think that it's not an issue in unit, you're wrong."
Saying that while no one aspect of the day's training would ultimately prevent someone from committing suicide, the garrison leader, asked all present to be ever mindful of those around them.
While the Wiesbaden community has not suffered any Soldier suicides in recent history, everyone must be vigilant to help prevent it from occurring, Carstens said.
"The only prevention of suicide is all of you -- you are what is going to prevent suicide," he said.