By Kim Gillespie, USAG Grafenwoehr Public AffairsMarch 25, 2009
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- During a 12-day span in March, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr experienced five suicide situations. One of these cases ended tragically, something garrison leadership is determined will not happen again.
"We are focused on recognizing the signs and intervening with others, but we must eliminate the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health issues," said Col. Chris Sorenson, commander of USAG Grafenwoehr.
"Regardless of rank, we need to say it is OK to discuss mental health, and that OK will not disadvantage one's career, or one's position in an organization," he said.
For those individuals who are still hesitant about seeking medical attention, another option to consider is their Army chaplains.
According to Chaplain (Maj.) Darin Nielsen, chaplains are a great resource for help with dealing issues surrounding suicide or other stressful concerns.
Nielsen encourages those who are struggling with getting help to seek a chaplain's help because chaplains can be vital in developing healthy solutions to Soldiers' struggles, especially in the area of suicide.
"Since September 2007, Army chaplains have provided 'absolute confidentiality' to those they counsel. Total confidential communication with a chaplain is the right of those who serve...This privilege belongs to the counselee, and in order for confidentiality to be broken, the counselee must give specific written permission," Nielsen said.
While the military in Europe does not have a suicide hotline, communities have on-call chaplains who will respond 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"Also, physicians and behavioral health workers are trained and prepared to support Soldiers with concerns or needs in this area. Military Police can also be contacted 24/7 with concerns and can help with getting resources for such emergencies," Nielsen said.
If a Soldier tells a chaplain he or she is considering suicide, chaplains use ACE, or Ask, Care, and Escort, the same suicide intervention technique taught during phase one of the suicide prevention stand-down.
While Nielsen said that if an individual has already stated a suicidal intention, the "ask" may focus on how serious the threat is, and more importantly, listening to what the person's issues are.
According to Nielsen, the second step, "care," means removing any means (that could be used for self-injury) if the threat is to that level.
"It might mean helping the Soldier consider the available resources that can assist what is causing the distress," he said.
The final step, "escort," means taking the suicidal person to the health clinic or a behavior health professional.
Both Nielsen and Sorenson agree that prevention is best way to reduce suicide ideation.
"Don't wait until the pain is extreme, but go in early to get help," Nielsen summarized.
"Our community has some great resources, whether it be marriage or family counseling, attending classes on finance, parenting, stress reduction, or anger management - all can help us be more resilient so that when losses do come we are more likely to cope successfully," he advised.