By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 8, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Although suicides in the Army are down from the same time last year, one suicide is one too many, according to installation and Army leadership.
That's why Fort Rucker is doing its part to raise awareness through September, which is Suicide Prevention Month, by providing opportunities for people on post to learn what they can do to help and how suicide can affect people, according to Traci Dunlap, Army Substance Abuse Program suicide prevention program manager.
This year's theme for the month is "Be There. Be there for your buddy, be there for your family, be there for yourself!"
"What we're asking is that everyone take a minute and be there for someone who they think might be going through a difficult time," said Dunlap. "We want to help people to understand that being there for someone means the simplest of things: sending a text, sending a message on (social media) or sending an email. It doesn't have to be stopping anything you're doing and running to where the person is."
That type of small interaction with someone could mean a world of difference to someone who might be on the verge of suicide or having unhealthy thoughts, said the suicide prevention program manager.
"I think people would be really amazed how the smallest touches really affect people who feel like they might have been forgotten about," she said, "and it's an excellent message because you can carry it all year long, and that goes for all programs."
Dunlap said the theme doesn't apply to just suicide, but can also be a motto people adopt for other issues, such as someone who's been through a sexual assault or had issues with domestic violence.
"This is a perfect theme for all of those different programs and it pulls all of us together," she said. "While the exact issue that we deal with is different, at the core of it, as bystanders or people of different backgrounds, if we're there to support each other, we can make those times somewhat easier and hopefully help to resolve the issue -- it's almost like common sense."
Throughout the month, events will be held to help bring about the awareness and educate people on the struggles that many who have had thoughts of suicide might go through and what they can do to help.
A viewing of "Honoring the Code," will be held at the Spiritual Life Center Sept. 16 from 1-2:30 p.m. and provides an in-depth look at the moral injury of veterans who have served in previous wars.
"It talks about how, in their duty as Soldiers, some of the things that they had to participate in truly conflicted with their own personal morals and how that really lingers with them years later," said the suicide prevention program manager.
In addition to the viewing, people will have the opportunity to talk with chaplains and have an open discussion to learn more about the issues.
There will also be training events going on throughout the month, including Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training sessions Sept. 8-9, and Sept. 29-30. For more information, call 255-7923.
Sept. 10 is also World Suicide Prevention Day, where people will gather at different venues to light a candle for those lost to suicide. All of the training and awareness is meant to help people know the signs and what to look out for, as well as to try and understand what it is people are going through, said Dunlap.
"Some of the warning signs people need to look out for are severe changes in behavior, such as a real deep swing in the behavior of the individual -- one way or the other," she said. "They should also look for severe use or abuse of alcohol or drugs.
"Also, anybody who has multiple difficulties all happening at once -- a death in the family, a divorce, children having problems, things like that," she continued. "Any time you see those issues compile themselves at one time in a person's life, that person is probably at high risk even if they want to admit it or not."
Dunlap suggests that people look at the big picture in someone else's life and put themselves in their shoes and ask themselves if it's something they would be able to deal with easily, and if they do notice the signs to take them seriously.
That's where the theme for the month comes in, she said. People should do what they can to be there for that person, and even if they don't feel comfortable intervening directly, get their first-line supervisor involved.
"Take it to their first-line supervisor or their leader -- don't just shove that to the side," she said. "Some people are really intimidated to get involved in a situation like that because it is so serious and so heavy, so I would take it to their first-line supervisor and let it be known if you really feel like someone's at risk.
"Suicide prevention is the responsibility of each of us on this installation, but at the same time it's understood that it can be difficult to get involved," continued Dunlap. "People should take those cries for help they might notice seriously. How would you feel if you notice it and never say anything?"
For more information, call 255-7923.
People can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255 if they need help, or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org to chat anonymously about their suicidal ideations.