FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Suicide Prevention Month officially kicked off with a suicide survivor panel at the Fort Bragg Soldier and Family Readiness Group Center, Sep. 1.
Throughout the month of September, the Directorate of Human Resources Suicide Prevention Office is partnering with organizations across the installation to bring awareness, provide resources and connect with the community.
“Suicide prevention and awareness isn’t something that just happens in September,” said Ed Chavis, Fort Bragg DHR suicide prevention program manager. “For us it is year-round, but we use this month to bring special awareness to our mission and the resources available to our service members and Families.”
This year’s official theme is “Connect to Protect – Support is Within Reach. We’re in this Together.” It’s a reminder that not every fight is on the battlefield, and the importance of the roles that the team, Family and individuals play in suicide prevention.
“The community really plays such an important role in suicide prevention,” explained Chavis. “And I’m not just talking about individuals, but also the programs and activities that are here to help our service members and Families get through difficult times.”
One such program, while not directly aimed at combating suicide, is the Army’s new Holistic Health and Fitness Program which launched in fiscal year 2021. H2F is part of the Army’s People First Strategy and is aimed at improving Soldier readiness through a whole health for life model.
“H2F is an approach to leader and Soldier education that attempts to bring a holistic perspective,” said Joshua Allen, 16th Military Police Brigade H2F program director. “It focuses on not just physical training but also sleep, nutrition, mental and spiritual readiness in order to fully address the needs of the Soldier.”
The 16th MP H2F office is one of 10 locations on Fort Bragg, each serving an individual brigade. Every office has personnel dedicated to providing units with the necessary resources and expertise to enhance Soldier readiness, reduce injury rates, rapidly rehabilitate and recondition Soldiers following injuries, and improve overall Soldier and unit morale.
“H2F is intended to be a positive culture change,” said Allen. “It supports the people first initiative in a meaningful way and helps to positively change the culture towards a community of support.”
One of the critical functions that H2F performs is assisting injured service members to heal and return to the force.
“We had a Soldier that came to us with chronic hip pain,” said Samantha Eppell, certified occupational therapy assistant. “When she first came to us, her mindset was definitely not in the greatest of places, and she didn’t have a clear way forward. The whole team came together and provided an interdisciplinary approach.”
The standard team consists of registered dieticians, physical therapists, strength and conditioning specialists, occupational therapists, cognitive performance experts, health educators, and certified athletic trainers. These individuals are available to the units and Soldiers, and can create tailor made plans to assist a Soldier where he or she is at.
“After several weeks of working with her each day, she ended up getting better, getting off profile and returning to her company,” said Eppell. “Not only did her physical health improve but so did her overall mental health. Seeing her come back to life and shine was definitely a good H2F success story.”
The H2F System is a major shift in the way the Army trains, develops and cares for Soldiers. It will continue to evolve over the next 20-30 years as it progresses towards its goals of integrating physical training programs, developing essential sleep tactics, establishing better food environments, strengthening cognition and enhancing spiritual readiness.
“We really do care and try very hard to help Soldiers find a way forward,” said Jennifer Fallon, H2F contracted strength coach. “We want to teach each service member to advocate for themselves and know where they can go to get the care they need.”
For more information on the H2F program go to https://www.army.mil/e2/downloads/rv7/acft/h2f_operating_concept.pdf.