By David M. RamseyAugust 31, 2015
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- It is good that more and more service members are pursuing behavioral health care. Much of this change is a result of the concerted efforts to destigmatize seeking help, constant encouragement by fellow service members and family members, and increased Command emphasis.
In the course of providing behavioral health care at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, Behavioral Health Service Line professionals see a number of service members and family members who are at risk for suicide.
Anytime a suicide attempt results in death, there are family members, battle buddies and friends who are left wondering what more they could have done to prevent it. Suicide is complicated and there is seldom an obvious or definitive explanation for ending one's life.
There are, however, signs that concerned individuals can pay attention to in order to provide assistance to the person at risk.
The American Association of Suicidology recommends using this easy-to-remember phrase: "IS PATH WARM."
• "I" is for ideation. Has the individual become more intrigued by death or simply talking about it more frequently than he or she has in the past?
• "S" is for substance abuse. Family and friends need to pay attention to a person's increase in alcohol consumption or perhaps engaging in the use of recreational drugs.
• "P" is for purposelessness. Does the person express a sense of not knowing where his or her life is leading or perhaps questioning whether that life has meaning at all?
• "A" is for anxiety. Is there a person in your life who is noticeably more anxious that usual? Has he or she changed from a person who is normally calm and under control to one who is on edge and feeling out of control? Increased sleep or lack of sleep may also be a characteristic of increased anxiety.
• "T" is for trapped. Is the person indicating that solutions to life's problems are either limited or non-existent? This in turn often escalates to…
• "H" is for hopelessness. Once a person loses hope, that person is far more likely to view suicide as a solution to a perceived unsolvable dilemma.
• "W" is for withdrawal. Has your fellow service member, family member or friend become disengaged? Does he or she spend more and more time alone? Is this person giving away cherished items?
• "A" is for anger. Does this person have a noticeable short fuse? Does this person get angry about everything because nothing seems too small to just let go?
• "R" is for recklessness. The reckless person either exhibits or actually engages in behavior that suggests a total indifference to whether he or she lives or dies.
• "M" is for mood changes. Does your battle buddy or family member move at "super speed" from one mood to another, perhaps not even being aware of the abrupt changes?
Walk-in services are available at the GLWACH BHSL, located in the southwest corner of the main hospital's basement floor, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., any time a soldier or family member experiences or observes "IS PATH WARM" signs.
An at-risk individual can also be escorted to the GLWACH Emergency Room where an on-call BHSL professional will provide assistance during the duty day as well as after duty hours, 24/7/365.
Other resources include:
• GLWACH Emergency Room: 573-596-0456
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
• Military OneSource: 1-800-342-9647, http://www.militaryonesource.com
• Military Pathways: 1-877-877-3647, http://www.militarymentalhealth.org
• Signs of Suicide (SOS): http://www.mentalhealthscreening.org/military/index.aspx
• Military and Family Life Counselors: http://www.fortleonardwoodmwr.com/mflc.php, http://www.mhngs.com
• Unit Family Readiness Groups
• Real Warriors Campaign: 1-866-966-1020, http://www.realwarriors.net
• Wellness resources for the military community: http://www.afterdeployment.org
• Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS): 1-800-959-TAPS (8277), http://www.taps.org
• TRICARE: 1-800-600-9332 (CONUS), http://www.tricareonline.com
• Army Reserve Family Program: 1-800-345-8248, http://www.arfp.org/WFAC
• The National Guard Psychological Health Program: http://www.realwarriors.net/guardreserve/treatment/NGPHP.php
• Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center: http://dvbic.dcoe.mil
(Editor's note: David M. Ramsey is a psychology technician with the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital's Behavioral Health Service Line)