By AMY GUCKEEN TOLSONSeptember 16, 2019
They stand as a reminder of those who felt they no longer could.
All throughout the month of September, 660 American flags will call the front lawn of Fox Army Health Center home, a stark reminder to passersby of the number of veterans and service members who will die by suicide over the course of the month's 30 days.
September is Suicide Prevention Month. Fox Army Health Center staff wanted to find a new way to raise awareness and support prevention efforts on the installation. The flags, representing the commonly cited statistic that 22 veterans and service members die by suicide each day, seemed like a good fit.
"We wanted to get people thinking about it. Suicide is a difficult topic to discuss. People worry that if they bring it up that's going to put the idea in someone's head, which really is not what happens, they're typically already thinking about it. Bringing it up opens the door to talk about resources.
Having a month where we talk about it to raise awareness of services and prevention is important," said Susan Landgraff with Fox's Behavioral Health, who came up with the idea.
Signs around the facility educate individuals on the warning signs, as well as resources available for those who may be considering ending their life. Eligible beneficiaries may make an appointment at Fox's Behavioral Health, or walk in during duty hours if they are feeling suicidal or particularly depressed.
"Reach out to somebody," Landgraff advised individuals who may be having suicidal thoughts. "There are a lot of resources available. There is help. You can feel better."
If you are concerned someone you know may be considering suicide, don't be afraid to speak up, she said.
"Ask them. Be really direct. Tell them, 'You don't seem to be well lately. You don't seem to be yourself. Have you been thinking about suicide?' And then based on that person's answer, try to connect them with resources as quickly as possible, whether that be walking them here, calling 911 if it's imminent, taking them to a hospital, making sure they get to talk to a professional," Landgraff said.
Editor's note: If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide or exhibiting warning signs, call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlineline.org. Warning signs of suicide, according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, may include: threatening to hurt or kill oneself, feeling hopeless, feeling rage or uncontrolled anger, acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, feeling trapped, increasing alcohol use or drugs, withdrawing from friends or family and dramatic mood changes.