By Ms. Ashley Patoka (Regional Health Command Europe)September 11, 2017
Every September the Armed Forces recognize National Suicide Prevention Month. This year, the Department of Defense's theme is "#Be There."
During the month of September, Regional Health Command Europe officials are urging Soldiers and civilians and family members to learn the warning signs and risk factors associated with suicide and to develop a knowledge of resources and emergency numbers.
Cary Weber, Baumholder Army Health Clinic Chief of Behavioral Health, said every year, more than 800,000 people die by suicide and up to 25 times as many make a suicide attempt.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
"The national average is around 14 suicides per 100,000 people, or approximately 120 suicide deaths per day," Weber said. "In 2012, at its peak, the Army experienced around 30 suicides per 100,000 people - more than twice the national average."
Approximately 20 veterans die from suicide every day. Current figures across the Services for the Active Component are about 20 suicides per 100,000; 25 per 100,000 for the Reserve Component; and 27 per 100,000 for the National Guard Component - all higher than the national average, according to Weber.
To help leaders and peers recognize the signs of suicide, Weber recommends The American Association of Suicidology's mnemonic device: IS PATH WARM?
I - Ideation
S - Substance Abuse
P - Purposelessness
A - Anxiety
T - Trapped
H - Hopelessness
W - Withdrawal
A - Anger
R - Recklessness
M - Mood Changes
More specifically, if someone demonstrates a direct threats of hurting or killing themself; talks about wanting to hurt or kill themself; attempts to access firearms or pills; or talks and writes about death, dying, or suicide, that person is at an acute risk for suicide behavior and should seek help.
In addition to these warning signs, some specific risk factors for suicide include:
• Prior suicide attempt
• Mental health problems, like depression and substance abuse disorders
• Access to lethal means
• A lack of belonging or connectedness and a sense of being a burden to others
• Emotional and psychological pain
• Current inability to deal with stress and ineffective coping skills
• Financial problems
• Family history of suicide, mental disorders, or substance abuse
• History of family violence, including physical and sexual abuse
• Serious medical problems
• Severe prolonged stress
• Exposure to suicidal behavior of others, like a friend, family member, or someone in the media
If you suspect someone you know may be suicidal, Weber recommends utilizing the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training model called the "Pathway for Assisting Life."
In this model, a person first connects with someone's suicidal feelings. Second, help them understand their available choices; hear them and support them in turning toward a safety plan. And third, assist life - develop and confirm the safety plan.
Weber also recommends helping to create time and distance, "putting time and distance between a suicidal person and some lethal means increases their odds for survival," he said.
For someone who is feeling suicidal there are many options available for seeking help.
"Get to a professional," Weber said. "Either go to the emergency room, aid station, or walk into any military behavioral health clinic and ask to be seen immediately."
He said other options include, calling emergency services or the military police station; calling a chaplain; informing leadership; or reaching out to a battle buddy. Someone in need can also call 112 in Germany, Belgium and Italy for local emergency services.
The Military Crisis Line and Veterans Crisis Line is also available at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and Press 1; or chat online at www.militarycrisisline.net; or send a text message to 838255
Military One Source has resources available and can be reached at 1-800-342-9647 or online at www.militaryonesource.mil. Additionally, the real warriors live chat is available at www.realwarriors.net/livechat.
"If you're depressed, struggling with substance abuse, or feeling suicidal, get help now," Weber said. "If you're not suicidal be there for those who are. Be aware of the warning signs and be willing to listen to the pain of others. Remember you don't have to be someone's therapist. Just connect with them and assist them in getting help. Show genuine interest and offer compassion and support. Don't be afraid to get involved."