By Guv Callahan, Pentagram Staff WriterSeptember 11, 2015
FORT MEYER, Va. (Sept. 11, 2015) -- Service members, emergency responders and community members gathered on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Sept. 1 for suicide prevention and awareness training as part of the Army's Ready and Resilient Campaign and Suicide Awareness Month.
The session was led by Dr. James T. Reese, a 25-year veteran of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and an award-winning author, lecturer and consultant in the areas of leadership, stress management, workplace violence and resilience.
While introducing Reese, Maj. Gen. Bradley Becker, commander of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, said serving in the military is a profoundly rewarding experience, but that it can also be trying.
"What we do as members of the Army profession is a tough business, and I would say that's also true for our law enforcement and emergency management brothers and sisters who are with us here today," he said. "As Soldiers, we spend our careers either preparing for combat or, in the case of the last 13 to 14 years, serving in combat. Add to that the stress of moving your family every couple of years, missed holidays and special occasions, multiple deployments, it can all be very stressful."
In order to deal with that stress, service members sometimes need to reach out and ask for help. That's where Reese comes in.
During his time in the FBI, Reese served as a criminal personality profiler, established the bureau's stress management program, and helped found the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. He also provided stress management and decompression services to the first responders at Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Reese brought his expertise to JBM-HH to speak to service members and those who put themselves in harm's way for a simple reason: "I love you," he told a packed Conmy Hall. "I love what you stand for."
Since deployments and combat can be so chaotic, Reese said it is important to have one's affairs in order on the home front.
"We never know what's going to face us in combat," he said. "That's why we have to get our lives together here."
That sweet spot stems from a positive attitude and outlook, which can be achieved through spiritual, personal, familial and occupational wellness, he said.
And, if a service member is struggling with depression or any other issues, they must not be afraid to ask somebody for help, Reese said.
"We have to be able to bounce back," he said. "Counseling is a strength, not a weakness ... Stress can kill, but it can be managed."
In the first quarter of 2015, there were 57 suicides among service members in the active component, 15 suicides among service members in the reserve component and 27 suicides among service members in the National Guard, according to the Department of Defense's quarterly suicide report.
Furthermore, data in the 2013 Defense Department Suicide Event Report shows the suicide rate for troops on active duty in 2013 was 18.7 per 100,000 population, down from a rate of 22.7 per 100,000 in 2012.
"The United States military has one of the greatest systems for helping people that exists, but you have to access it," Reese said. "I strongly suggest that you have the courage to do that. Sometimes that takes more courage than combat ... to say 'I have a problem, I have a weakness, I have issues.'"
And Reese knows from experience. After serving as a platoon leader during the Vietnam War, Reese said he had to see a counselor to deal with the stress.
"Slow it down and talk about your issues," he said. "When your life has purpose, you think less about giving it up."
Service members and their families in need of support can reach out to the Military Crisis Line, which offers free and confidential support for those in crisis. The Military Crisis Line is staffed with qualified responders from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, many of whom have served in the military themselves.
Support is also available through the crisis line phone number, online chat, and text-messaging services for all service members (active and reserve components) and veterans 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year by visiting the Military Crisis Line website at veteranscrisisline.net/ActiveDuty.aspx; Online Chat at: www.veteranscrisisline.net/ChatTermsOfService.aspx; sending a text to: 838255 or calling toll free at: 1-800-273-8255, option 1.