By U.S. ArmyJuly 10, 2017
David Covington, global speaker with top ranked TED-style Talks, spoke about suicide prevention to a packed auditorium of 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers and others assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord at Carey Theater on June 28.
Covington spoke to the importance of connection and contribution in combatting self-harm.
Covington is the President-Elect of the American Association of Suicidology. He used his experience eating bugs on the reality show Fear Factor to joke with the Green Berets on their similarities. He also showed the audience a photo of himself holding onto a bar 40 feet above water while on the show, and talked about how individuals struggling with suicidal ideations hold on as long as they can.
"People don't want to die," Covington said. "They just want to end their suffering."
"I challenge the idea that suicide is a choice," he continued. "That's a simplistic way of looking at it. People succumb when all hope is lost -- when the anguish is so much they cannot hold on."
During his talk, Covington discussed the importance of a strong social network, saying that science claims being alone increases early death by 33 percent. He said those with suicidal ideations are thwarted by belongingness (not feeling like they belong) and the perception of burdensomeness (feeling like a burden).
"People thrive with strong connections and the ability to contribute," Covington said. "When an ant is injured, it can no longer do its job. It isolates itself and then it dies."
"Suicide leaves us with loss and the struggle to understand," said Col. Guillaume Beaurpere, 1st SFG (A) commander. "People are our most treasured resource, and the first line of defense is our battle buddies."
During the question and answer portion of the presentation, an audience member asked if those who come close to committing suicide can ever bounce back enough to be happy in the future. "Everyone has different levels of happiness," Covington answered. "For some people a really happy day is another person's sad day."
Spc. Meghan Gonzalez, a 1st SFG (A) supply specialist, discussed the challenge of trying to help those considering suicide. "The end point isn't always going to be what your version of happy is," she said. "People just have to be okay with themselves."
1st SFG (A) Command Sgt. Major Tony Labrec commended the unit's success in preventing suicides by taking care of each other. "Suicide prevention is not just about engaged leadership; it's about being engaged battle buddies and engaged friends," Labrec said.
Labrec also addressed the stigma behind asking for behavioral health help. "The stronger leaders are those who acknowledge when something isn't right," he said. "There are no repercussions for asking for help."
The 1st SFG (A) Chaplain, Maj. Christopher Russack, concluded the event by reminding Soldiers of the Army's "ACE" model -- he encouraged them to ask, care, and escort their battle buddies struggling.
"This is a team effort," he said. "Every day we're charged with looking out for each other."
The U.S. Army, U.S. Army Special Operations Command and 1st Special Forces Command does not endorse