You don’t stand alone: suicide prevention takes teamwork, intervention

By Gen. Michael X. Garrett, FORSCOM Commanding GeneralSeptember 4, 2020

People are our greatest asset, and we are losing far too many to suicides.

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When we lose one of our own to suicide, that one loss affects on average about 135 people. Think about that. If you take your own life, 135 people – your battle buddies, your teammates, your family and friends – will feel that pain.

As the Commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, it is my responsibility to ensure our Soldiers are ready to support the nation when it needs us. Readiness takes many forms – to include protecting Soldiers’ lives. From safety to resilience, fitness to family care, commanders check and double check many details to prevent risks and avoid late-night phone calls about a tragedy.

Trust me, being on the receiving end of a phone call where someone tells you that a Soldier died by suicide … those are the phone calls that keep commanders up at night.

We’ve all been in a place where we aren’t sure what our purpose is or what we may be accomplishing with our lives. Maybe you were getting out of a bad relationship, experiencing a concerning family situation or facing a financial loss. Enduring that situation also sometimes makes people feel alone.

I am here to tell you: you do have support, you don’t stand alone. Don’t hesitate to seek help.

Having grown up in a military family, and now as the Commander of the Army’s largest organization, I am saying with authority that this Army is a family – we are brothers and sisters. We are here to lift each other up, to provide support, to listen, to ask the hard questions.

Suicide is a complex issue. It touches every military service as well as every community in our nation. Each and every person on our Army team plays a vital role, contributes to our overall readiness, and brings unique and necessary talents. You do matter.

September is Suicide Prevention Month. The month allows the Army to highlight efforts to strengthen resilience, enhance personal readiness, and increase awareness of available resources. The Army continues to improve programs and policies to assist commanders in strengthening Soldiers and enhancing personal resilience.

Leader, Soldier, and Family Member involvement are critical in understanding the signs and symptoms of at-risk behavior and encouraging service members to seek support.

For specifics on risk factors, warning signs, and how to take action potentially to save a life, here are two resources used by the Army, Department of Defense, and Department of Veterans Affairs:

Military Crisis Line:

Call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), Press 1

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

Call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

I encourage you to learn something new about each Soldier in your squad. Be honest with yourself and others about how you are feeling and share with others when the situation seems overwhelming. As the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline says, “suicide is not inevitable for anyone. By starting the conversation, providing support, and directing help to those who need it, we can prevent suicides and save lives.”

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