Suicide prevention is among the highest priorities of the Army.
Suicide is a complex and complicated public health problem and to date there have been numerous studies and initiatives designed to prevent suicide. However, researchers have identified no one best strategy or clinical approach that will prevent suicide.
Now, a new theme and strategy is being brought forward to help — “Connect to Protect: Support is Within Reach.” This theme — from the Defense Suicide Prevention Office — highlights how social connections and a sense of belonging serve as protective factors against suicide.
Connect to Protect is a strategy designed to encourage Soldiers, their Families and Department of the Army civilians to take action to make connections with and reach out to the people around them and the resources in our community.
In keeping with the theme of connectedness, the Army is focusing on “It’s the Little Things that Matter” – “the little things” include daily interactions with our friends, Family, and peers.
Those little things build strong relationships and act as protective factors. They also increase our ability to manage life stressors.
Anyone can feel lost or hopeless; often, an event triggers this feeling. The first thing to do is to pause – take a deep breath in, then out, and do it several times – then phone a supportive family member or friend to talk; ask for help.
Sometimes, we overlook or forget the value of time spent with our family and friends; calling to check on a friend; or telling someone how much you appreciate them.
The 24th Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy and Chief of Staff of the Army, General James C. McConville jointly said, “Seeking help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. All of us are responsible for the care and safekeeping of our teammates and their families, and for being there for one another and encouraging those in need to (get) help."
Making time to be there to listen when someone needs to talk is one of the actions that strengthen our relationships and help to protect us from suicide.
The Army, in line with DOD, embraces the public health approach using a research-informed strategy. Suicide prevention is complex and complicated, and many possible approaches exist to help. Both medical and non-medical approaches that address factors such as culture, social, economic, and other determinants of health to combat suicide are felt to be needed.
The best public health approach is not just to rely on behavioral health providers for suicide prevention. It’s the responsibility of all of us to pay attention to the people in our lives — to do our part to get to know people and be a part of the team.
The little things matter, and all of us are responsible.
Here are some things you might do if you have suicidal feelings:
-- You can reach out to your support network or community and clinical resources;
-- Get busy doing something productive;
-- Visit a friend or family;
-- Go shopping;
-- Work out;
-- Take care of unfinished chores or work tasks;
-- Do anything that makes you focus on a task or interest, especially something that can be done in the company of others.
In addition, it is important to identify two or three people that you can call anytime and talk about anything. Let them know you need more support or ask for their support or help.
The Army is working to ensure Service members understand the importance of seeking care sooner, rather than later, when they are experiencing distress. Early action provides additional time for you to learn coping skills to manage challenges before they become overwhelming. And remember that suicide can be impulsive.
Suicide prevention requires a multi-faceted approach from all of us; not just clinical providers, commanders or other leaders – it requires everyone. Here are some online resources:
https://www.armyresilience.army.mil/ -- Army G1
https://www.militaryonesource.mil/ -- Military OneSource
https://www.dspo.mil/Tools/ --- Defense Suicide Prevention Office
And from the Office of the Chief, Chaplains Corps:
And if there is an imminent crisis for you or a friend? Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 for the Military Crisis Line.