Suicide Awareness: No Suicide on my Watch

By Andrew BrownSeptember 30, 2020

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT EUSTIS, Va. – 6 teams from various units prepare to participate in a suicide awareness event that promotes suicide education among Soldiers and brings awareness to suicide.

Suicide awareness is a key factor to prevent suicides and lower the probability that an individual engages in self-injurious behavior. Shared responsibilities between leaders, Soldiers, Family members, and Army Civilians. Although many have the resilience to work through their issues, some may need assistance to manage the stressors associated with their issues.

Bringing a physical component to suicide awareness is the mindset and brainchild of Lt. Col. Adrian Johnson, the Deputy Installation Director for Psych Health Department of Behavioral Health McDonald Army Health Center.

“I wanted an event that would both inspire esprit de corps and bring awareness to suicide in an effort to demonstrate that as a community we must come together and 'build a culture of trust' that functions to mitigate the risks associated with suicide.”

Factors such as relationship stressors/distress, occupational stressors, substance abuse, financial stressors, legal stressors, medical stressors (chronic disease and physiological pain), and loneliness or isolation, and adverse childhood experiences are some that contribute to suicidal tendencies.

“The way we combat suicide as a community is by collectively learning and understanding its pathology and collaboratively investing through working groups and other venues. Activities such as this event are the tipping point for a suicide mitigation strategy.” said Johnson.

The hope is that team building events like this remain an effective tool for Soldiers and units to build a foundation of trust and awareness about suicide.

According to Johnson “In Behavioral / Psychological Health, we are taught that exercise helps to improve one's mood. So not only are we enhancing our physical health, but the team-building helps to bring mental clarity through focus and social cue development through the community aspect.”

Suicide awareness is important because it provides insight into risk factors that contribute to suicide, indicators or warning signs of suicide, protective factors that combat suicide and resources like the 5 Essential Components of Self-Care tool that the McDonald Army Health Center Behavioral Health team has deployed to mitigate the risks associated with suicide.

“The 5 Essential Components of Self-Care offers the individual insight into practical techniques and coping strategies Soldiers can utilize moment by moment to reduce the rigorous toil that stressors place upon the life of an individual through everyday challenges. This Self-Care tool also comes with a plan that the individual could use to measure progress in the 5 domains through goal-setting. This tool is beneficial and has been taught to Soldiers, Command Teams, leaders, and civilians throughout.” said Johnson.

Collaborative efforts and a focused network of professionals provide working groups such as Physical Resiliency, Spiritual Resiliency, Community, and the Senior Commander Forums that meet on a regular basis to unite and facilitate enhanced behavioral health to our military community at large.

McDonald Army Health Center Behavioral Health (BH) clinic continues to provide services to Soldiers ranging from SUDCC, FAP, some group therapy, psychiatric services / medication management or reconciliation, and family BH Services. Other services offered on Fort Eustis are Behavioral Health Consultants (BHCs), Chaplain Support (usually first responders). There are also BH Mobile Apps such as Virtual Hope Box, Breathe2Relax, Life Armor, and Calm.

“No one person knows everything about suicide, but collectively if we save one person's life, it was a life worth saving. Also, know that not everyone who endorses suicidal tendencies talks about it; however the indicators are present in some way. Be diligent and deliberate to the best of your ability. Because 1 suicide is one suicide too many.” said Johnson.