FORT KNOX, Ky. – The Army is encouraging Soldiers to “Connect to Protect,” to help maintain resiliency. We accomplish that when we get to know our teammates.
According to the Army Resilience Directorate, strong social connectedness is a protective factor in suicide prevention. The Army provides training and resources to facilitate personal resiliency, improve communication and enhance relationships with friends, family, and teammates. These bonds, when cultivated daily, can serve as a support system during tough times.
Developing and maintaining personal relationships is exactly what Sgt. 1st Class Ralph Boyd, suicide prevention program manager, 1st Theater Sustainment Command encourages Soldiers to do.
“Foster an environment where teammates feel comfortable coming to you to voice their concerns or issues instead of bottling things up to where issues become a problem.”
Boyd believes that will lead to trust in leadership and more willingness to share.
“Some people are just shy because of the way they were raised, or because of their life experiences,” he said.
Boyd adds that some of the ways in which we can support each other is through participation in the Soldier and Family Readiness Group events throughout the year.
“The movie nights, fishing, barbeques, and bowling events help break people out of their shells,” Boyd said.
“In those cases, Soldiers get to interact with people who they might not otherwise, because of the size of the unit, the layout of the building, the rotation to Camp Arifjan, or battle rhythm events.
“But at a family event where everyone is in their civilian clothes, they are more relaxed. Spouses become friends. Soldiers become friends. It definitely fosters that family-type environment to let your guard and your hair down and get to know each other - not just as a Soldier, but as a person too,” he said.
Boyd also encourages single Soldiers to get involved with the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program. It is provided by installation Morale, Welfare, and Recreation and offers many opportunities to participate in activities together.
In the program, Soldiers are given opportunities to volunteer, rock climb, hike, bowl, and participate in a host of other activities together.
The Army Resilience Directorate also urges commanders, first-line supervisors and all leaders to constantly engage their Soldiers, civilians, and family members in these efforts to mitigate suicidal behaviors by ensuring that the Army’s people are ready and resilient.
Additionally, they encourage Soldiers to build resiliency, which relies on five dimensions of personal readiness: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and family.
While being deployed can often provide an additional level of stress and anxiety, Chaplain (Col.) Derek Smith, command chaplain, operational command post, 1st TSC explains that there are many resources available to anyone who might simply need someone to talk to.
“There are currently five Family Life Chaplains at Area Support Group-Kuwait that are trained therapists/counselors.
“Four of the chaplains here are fully licensed in multiple disciplines and specialties,” Smith added.
If confidentiality is important, Smith also wants Soldiers to know that chaplains offer total confidentiality.
First line supervisors, first sergeants or company commanders, and other team members are there to help and provide additional resources to help overcome any obstacles in a Soldier’s life.
Mental health counseling is always available, and Soldiers are encouraged to seek counseling and ask for help when needed.
“Asking for help is a sign of strength,” explained Boyd. “Everyone struggles at one time or another.”
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 and press 1 for the Military Crisis Line. Anyone overseas can chat by texting 838255.
The Army urges us all to stay connected to our teammates and genuinely show that we care for each other by continuing to have each other’s backs, both on and off the battlefield.