Clarksville Suicide Prevention Alliance Summit
Col. Patrick T. Birchfield, commander, Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, was a keynote speaker at the Clarksville Suicide Prevention Alliance Summit, Oct. 1 in Clarksville, Tennessee. He praised the opportunity to bring together so many skilled re... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Blanchfield Army Community Hospital officials participated in Clarksville's Suicide Prevention Alliance Summit at the Wilma Rudolph Event Center recently as community leaders aim their focus on suicide prevention, intervention and assistance.

The summit was designed to bring community resources together to discuss ways the community could help assist at-risk individuals including service members, veterans, family members and others in the community in order to prevent suicide.

"Leadership is very concerned about suicide. This is a fantastic opportunity to get together with all of the resources that are in the community, as they come together in one single location spot, and network and form ways to align together to help lower the suicide rate in middle-Tennessee and the Clarksville community," said Col. Patrick T. Birchfield, Blanchfield commander and one of several keynote speakers at the event.

Representatives from military, the Veteran's Administration, counseling and assistance organizations, non-profit and civic organizations and a number of community resources participated in the summit. The mission of the alliance is to reduce suicide through effective messaging, caregiver training, crisis intervention and data gathering and analysis, so bringing together stakeholders enabled an effective exchange of information as the group moves forward.

The alliance brought together stakeholders and guest speakers to discuss what each of their organizations can do to foster a climate that encourages at-risk individuals to seek help. Stigma reduction and anti-discrimination policies that protect service members who seek behavioral health care were among topics discussed.

Studies indicate fear of jeopardizing a military career is one barrier to service members seeking help, but Birchfield stressed that times have changed in the military and seeking help is not an automatic career ender.

"If you seek help for a family or personal situation that you just want to have better control over, that doesn't necessarily negatively affect security clearances or your career. The rules have changed. As a medical professional, I would have to say that getting help is actually better for your career. Getting help allows you to perform at a higher level," said Birchfield.

In his 2018 testimony before congress, Navy Capt. Mike Colston, the Department of Defense's director of mental health policy and oversight, stressed that it was almost impossible to lose a security clearance from endorsing a mental health history on an SF-86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions. Colston said that out of nearly 10 million security clearances, only a couple dozen were denied for that reason. "We really need to get the word out."

Communicating policies is one method to help service members understand their resources and dispel myths.

Birchfield said he and the rest of the BACH team are committed to working with the alliance to help find solutions that connect individuals with support and eliminate suicide in the community.

"This is just a great opportunity for Blanchfield Army Community Hospital to be here, interacting and networking with the alliance to serve our Soldiers and beneficiaries and the community to help them with their mental health needs. We look forward to what the future holds," said Birchfield.

On Fort Campbell, a variety of support services are available through the hospital, brigade level embedded behavioral health, Army Community Service, unit chaplains and Military and Family Life Counseling.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of 161 crisis centers that provides a 24/7, toll-free hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. This Lifeline also supports service members and veterans. After dialing 1-800-273-TALK, the caller is routed to their nearest crisis center to receive immediate counseling and local mental health referrals. The Lifeline supports people who call for themselves or someone they care about.