Members of the 15th Signal Brigade community hosted an event to recognize World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10 at the Cyber Fitness Center.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, but 15th Signal Brigade leadership is working to help ensure Soldiers keep this matter at the front of their minds year-round.
Soldiers were invited and encouraged to take part in activities that included games such as relay races, basketball, and a host of others – all for the sake of increasing suicide prevention awareness and building morale.
Robin Stokes, Army Substance Abuse Program specialist, said the main goal of the event was to bring the student population together to have fun while learning about resources available to them.
“When we look at the weekends, a lot of times they’re by themselves, they’re spending a lot of time in their rooms, and so we wanted them to be able to get out, interact, and have some fun,” Stokes said. “And because this is one of our highest loss groups, we want to ensure they are aware of the available resources, remind them to connect with others, and to look out for each other."
A TRADOC Organic Medical Support team (TOMS), Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) representatives, and senior leaders from the Cyber Center of Excellence NCO Academy were among dozens of brigade staff on hand with information pertaining to suicide prevention, mental health, and overall wellness.
Maj. Amy Brzuchalski, a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, said the Army has come a long way in terms of suicide prevention.
“Not just preventing suicide, but preventing crises and knowing how to get to the helping agencies, whether that’s SHARP, EO, ACS, there are so many resources,” Brzuchalski said.
As part of TOMS, Brzuchalski and her teammate, a behavioral health technician, are assigned to the brigade (instead of the hospital) specifically to assist with Soldiers in training to help ensure they receive the necessary care and resources when issues arise and with minimal missed training time or instruction. Along with providing care in the brigade footprint, Brzuchalski said she also hopes to help eradicate any stigma that is sometimes associated with getting help, pointing out that some Soldiers still think it could harm their career.
“In actuality, seeking behavioral health will help you keep a healthy career and keep your clearance, because if you’re not willing to get help, it doesn’t show that you can make good decisions,” Brzuchalski said. “In a lot of career progression, evaluations, and programs, they’re looking to make sure that you have good judgment and problem solving skills, so going to behavioral health actually shows those things.”
First Sgt. Audrey Richardson, with the NCO Academy, hopes that events such as this will encourage Soldiers to open up by sharing their struggles, noting that that everyone has them.
“The ability to speak about them as they share their experience is what’s most important – to say that I had a suicide ideation at some point in my life, and I’m not ashamed to say it, because I know it’s something that’s very prominent amongst our people these days,” Richardson said. “If I’m able to share a story that helps somebody else come out of it, I’m absolutely for it.”
“If they would just let us know what’s going on with them, we’re going to get them to the proper resource to help them,” Stokes added.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, there is help. The National Suicide Prevention Helpline is available 24/7 simply by calling or texting 988.