By Ms. Mary Ann Davis (IMCOM)September 14, 2017
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Everyone plays a role in suicide prevention, and during Suicide Prevention Month in September, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz would like to educate and provide resources to shed light on this important issue.
In the past, the garrison held suicide prevention stand-down days to spread awareness, but this year will be much different, said Yancy Chandler, USAG RP Suicide Prevention Program manager.
"We are stepping it up and including the entire community -- not just our active-duty Soldiers, but civilian employees and family members as well," he said. "This year, we will provide three days of Ready & Resilient training, a 5K fun run and a Ready & Resilient Block Party."
Ready & Resilient training takes place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 26-28, at the Rock Chapel in Baumholder. The same curriculum will be provided each day to allow commanders the ability to send several Soldiers to train on different days without greatly impacting their missions, Chandler said.
"With the high operations tempo and numerous exercises our Soldiers are involved in, it can be challenging to get them the training they need," he said. "This will be the best way to give them the opportunity to attend when it's convenient."
Chandler will instruct "Safe Talk" sessions during the three days, including alertness training to observe and respond to situations where suicide thoughts might be present, recognize invitations for help that may be overlooked and move beyond people's tendencies to miss, dismiss and avoid suicide situations. He began providing the course last November and incorporated it into this year's event.
"This is brand-new training that we are offering through a Canadian education team, who also teach Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training or ASIST," he explained. "The class takes the stigma or taboo away from people reaching out and getting help when suicide is involved."
During the three days, Soldiers will also receive finance and budget briefings from the Financial Readiness Office, discuss topics with the Family Advocacy Program and receive information about communication and relationship building from Military Family Life Consultants.
Later in the week, people can lace up their running shoes for a 5-kilometer Ready and Resilient Fun Run at 7 a.m., Sept. 29, at the Baumholder Hall of Champions Fitness Center. A few hours after the run, a Ready and Resilient Block Party will be in full swing from 2 to 6 p.m., in the Wagon Wheel Theater parking lot.
"The commanders from the USAG RP and 21st Theater Support Command will be there to officiate the ceremony," Chandler said. "We will also have information tables and booths, Directorate of Emergency Services vehicles, McGruff the Crime Dog as well as several supporting agencies. This will be a fun and educational event with plenty of information and experts."
According to the 2016 Department of Defense Suicide Report, 275 active-duty deaths were caused by suicide, so it's not a topic the military overlooks or takes lightly. That's why the military takes a frank approach when it comes to this issue.
U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands emphasized that strengthening Soldiers and enhancing resilience is not a seasonal endeavor, but a daily effort and a top priority for the Army.
"As Army leaders, we need to proactively build self-awareness and strengthen relationships with our Soldiers, and foster a culture where individuals are motivated to seek help when needed, without the fear of stigma," said Seamands.
"It's very important to be direct when asking someone about suicide," added Chandler. "You don't want to ask people if they are thinking of 'harming' themselves. Many times people will say no, because they may be thinking of ending their life and just hoping it doesn't 'hurt.'"
Chandler, who saved a suicidal friend's life by intervening, was blunt: "Ask people directly if they are thinking of killing themselves -- it's a yes or no answer."
Do celebrity suicide deaths like Robin Williams and Linkin Park's frontman Chester Bennington glamorize suicide? No, Chandler said.
"When people see their favorite actors or musicians commit suicide, people may think about it more, but it doesn't put it in their heads -- the idea was probably there well before that," he said. "Many times, people will have issues that pile up on top of each other until it gets to a breaking point. So it's important to recognize signs in ourselves and others that could contribute to suicidal thoughts or gestures."
Chandler said more people are using social media to reach out for help, and so knowing what to do can be tough.
"It's very difficult when you are on a phone call or receive a Facebook text because you can't see the person face to face," he explained. "Find out where that person is and contact your local emergency services (110 or 112). They are trained to intervene."
Chandler is committed to educating and bringing about awareness to suicide due to a friend he "talked down" years ago.
"That experience is one of the reasons I'm so passionate about this job. I want to help as many people as I can by training others to save lives," he concluded.
For help, call the National Suicide Prevention Life Line and Veterans Crisis Line at DSN 118 or 00-800-1273-TALK or the Military Veterans Crisis Line at 00-800-273-8255.