SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Sept. 4, 2019) - The number "22" rings a different bell for the one percent that raised their hand to the square to support and defend the constitution of the United States of America. The astonishing statistic published by the VA's 2012 Suicide Data Report indicates that roughly 22 Veterans complete suicide a day. The number "22" is galvanizing, but in the eyes of our Army, one suicide is one too many.
In 2018 the Pentagon reported that 321 active-duty service members completed suicide, the highest number in the last six years. U.S. Soldiers accounted for 138 of the 321 deaths. On average, the Army loses roughly one Soldier to suicide ever three to four days. One Soldier who raised their hand to support and defend the constitution of the United State of America. One Soldier that is hailed as a hero from their hometown. One Soldier who is a beloved spouse, sibling, or child.
One Soldier, is one too many.
Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. It claimed the lives of 47,000 people in 2017 according to Centers for Disease Control. It was the second leading cause of death among those between the ages of 18 and 34 -- roughly 2/3rds of active-duty personnel are 30 or younger.
Winston Churchill said it best: "Never never give up."
September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. The month is intended to combat the ongoing phenomena that suicide presents. Promoting resources and spreading awareness directly lowers the stigma associated with suicide. Talking about a prevalent issue is the best way to combat it.
We would never deploy Soldiers without first training them to accomplish their anticipated mission -- why should suicide prevention be any different'" asked Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. The Army has taken significant steps to combat the many factors that influence suicide. By implementing Army-wide policies such as the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASSIST), Master Resiliency Training (MRT), or even Ask Care Escort (ACE)."
The Army has embedded behavioral health experts into the tactical footprint of units to aid in meeting the behavioral health needs of its Soldiers and assist leaders in understanding warning sides of psychological stress, decreasing stigma, and training Soldiers on how to care for their buddy. The interventions the Army has put into effect are having an impact.
By aligning Soldiers with constant care on a 24/7 basis and continuing to combat mental health stigma, we are decreasing the risk of Suicide.
Soldiers have answered the call to combat suicide in their own individual ways. The Objective Zero Foundation mobile application connects members of the military with ambassadors that can assist with depressive or suicidal thoughts, and provide them helpful resources. Maj. Chris Mercado, Army Times 2017 Soldier of the Year, created the mobile app to aid troops in their respective battles, after several of his peers took their own lives. The Objective Zero app is available for download through the Apple Store and Google Play.
Often times when a Soldier dies by suicide, their peers often reflect on the warning signs their buddy displayed. No one knows Soldiers better than their battle buddies. As Soldiers in the Army, we challenge you to ask your buddy if they're okay. We challenge you to help your buddy and escort them to help. By listening, offering encouragement, and attempting to understand a person, incredible things can happen.
"To anyone out there who's hurting--it's not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It's a sign of strength." -- Barrack Obama
The Desmond T. Doss Health Clinic is committed to enforcing all policies related to suicide and minimizing its impact by signing a pledge to our military communities.
The Desmond T. Doss Health Clinic at Schofield Barracks is conducting a Suicide Prevention Pledge on Sept. 6, 2019 starting at 4:00p.m to empower communities to STOP suicides by recognizing the warning signs, asking directly about suicide, and assisting those in distress to stay safe.
For those in need of professional support, behavioral health assets are available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The Military/Veterans Crisis Line can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); and Performance Center (808) 655-9804. Additional resources include: Military One Source, your unit Embedded Behavioral Health Team, or the Tripler Army Medical Center ER at (808) 433-6661.