WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 3, 2009) - More than a 140 Soldiers took their lives last year making 2008 the worst in the Army's history for preventable suicides. And, so far in 2009 the Army has confirmed seven suicides along with 19 other deaths which are presently under investigation.

To combat the growing numbers and make Soldiers aware of how they can recognize and prevent the possible suicide of a battle buddy, stand-downs are presently being conducted Army-wide through March 15 with follow-on chain-teaching from March 15 through June 15.

The Pentagon last week conducted its stand-down highlighting ways in which a Soldier might recognize the warning signs of a buddy or family member who is considering suicide. Through an interactive video, the audience was presented with different vignettes, then the video was stopped while several options were given to the viewers who exchanged their thoughts on what they thought was the correct response.

"The new video we're using is called 'Beyond the Front' is an interactive video. The intent is to learn from the experiences we share collectively," Morales said. "There's a lot to learn from Soldiers, Department of Army civilians and family members who have been in that position and we are leveraging those experiences to educate ourselves even better."

"The intent has been to address those key things that leadership thinks are of value for Soldiers to know and that is recognize warning signs and risk factors of those persons who might be considering suicide," said Walter Morales, Army Suicide Prevention Program Manager.

In addition to the video the chain-teaching awareness briefs also include a laminated "ACE" of hearts playing card and suicide prevention training tip card.

"ACE is the suicide prevention model for the Army. It stands for 'Ask, Care and Escort,'" Morales said. "Have the courage to ask, 'are you thinking of killing yourself'' without being judgmental. The 'C' stands for Care - remove any means the Soldier or family member may use to kill themselves with such as weapons, medications and so forth, be calm and don't use force but listen to help them feel relief. The 'E' means to escort your buddy through the chain of command or the chaplain or a health care provider. Our intent is to intervene as quickly as possible when we see warning signs."

Most suicides and suicide attempts are reactions to intense feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness and guilt. It also includes depression for at least two weeks and may have symptoms such as overwhelming sadness, changing appetite or notable weight gain or loss, disturbed sleep patterns, fatigue, fear of abandonment by those close to the individual and decreased interest in pleasurable activities.