With the Army suicide rate the highest ever last year, Madigan Army Medical Center Behavioral Health professionals are working to find innovative ways to combat the needless loss.

They found that it was confusing for a Soldier or family member to figure out how to connect with the best resources, particularly if the Soldier was feeling distressed or even suicidal, so a suicide hotline was mentioned as a possibility. After considerable discussion among behavioral health departments, they determined that the best solution was to partner with an around-the-clock, nationwide, service-integrated and multi-disciplinary system already intact - Military OneSource.

With both a phone number (1-800-342-9647) and a Web site (www.militaryonesource.com), Military OneSource offers the opportunity for active duty, Reserve or National Guard service members or their family members to speak to master's-level, credentialed healthcare providers or social workers on myriad topics. Leading the charge in creating the cooperation between Madigan and Military OneSource is Lt. Col. Gary Southwell, the hospital's chief of psychology.

"The government has spent all this money on Military OneSource, so we are wise to take advantage of that," Southwell said.

Southwell reasoned that because so many military personnel already know about Military One Source's resources, he would work with their counselors to have them refer any Fort Lewis-based Soldiers discussing suicide to contact Madigan's Behavioral Health Clinic. What started small has grown much larger and more efficient now, as Military OneSource staff can contact the clinic while talking to someone suicidal at the same time.

"This collaboration allows us to save lives, and that makes me very happy," Southwell said.

Suicide isn't the only reason someone under some type of stress should contact Military OneSource. They handle all sorts of issues like alcohol or drug abuse, domestic violence, marriage counseling, mental health evaluations - all over the phone or computer. "People should appreciate the breadth of services Military OneSource provides," Southwell said.

Those concerned about being on hold waiting to speak to a Military OneSource staff member shouldn't fear, as Southwell said they are required to pick up within five rings. Or, someone needing help can log on to the Web site and send an e-mail, or conduct an online consultation using instant messaging.

Depending on the situation, the Military OneSource organization may schedule face-to-face meetings with local professional counse-lors.

Fort Lewis and Fort Campbell, Ky., are currently the only posts using Military OneSource as a one-stop shop resource for their clinics, but that might change as the word gets out about how successful the program has been.

"Once other places understand the value of Military OneSource, they will want to take advantage of such a rich resource," said Jaime McKay, Dept. of Psychology.

For more information about Military One Source, call 1-800-342-9647, or go online to www.militaryonesource.com.

Lorin T. Smith is editor of Madigan Army Medical Center's Mountaineer. This article appeared in Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.