By Kristin Molinaro, The BayonetAugust 27, 2009
FORT BENNING, GA - Jennifer Holliday knows depression and loneliness can fuel suicidal thoughts.
Holliday, best known for her role as Effie White in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls and her R&B hit And I am Telling You I'm Not Going, nearly took her own life in 1990 after years of depression.
Through her faith in God, Holliday said she survived her battle with depression and for the last 17 years has served as an advocate for suicide prevention and erasing the stigma of depression.
"I want to provide some inspiration and encouragement that there is hope for people who are suffering," Holliday said. "And, if you are depressed or feeling overwhelmingly sad, that there is a place for you to get help. That is my main goal."
This goal is why Holliday partnered with Fort Benning's Army Substance Abuse Program to talk to Soldiers and families about suicide prevention. Holliday will conduct training sessions at the Benning Conference Center from 10 to 11 a.m. and from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Sept. 10.
"In her delivery, she talks and then she sings. She hits you on different levels," said Yvonne Wilbanks, chief of ASAP, who attended a presentation by Holliday in Columbus last year. "The seminar title 'Heart to Heart' is indicative of the type of program that it is, one person caring about another and helping them through life's struggles. And she does a tremendous job in sharing her life story in a way that is meaningful to the audience."
Wilbanks and Denise Stephens, Fort Benning's suicide prevention manager, hope the presentation encourages those who need help to get it and to reduce the stigma attached to seeking help for behavioral health problems.
"Anytime we lose a Soldier (to suicide) it's very tragic. Tragic for the units, the families and the community," Stephens said. "There are agencies upon agencies ready to act for Soldiers in need. Suicide is a personal choice made in a difficult situation when someone isn't aware of the wealth of support available to them."
Blending together a Grammy Award-winning singer's personal experiences and a tough talk on suicide, Wilbanks expects the message to be both powerful and entertaining.
"People will be touched by what she has to say," Wilbanks said. "Anyone can have problems with depression, even famous individuals who seemingly have everything going for them."
To sign your unit up to attend, contact Stephens by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 706-545-5441. Individuals do not need to register in advance.
Where to get help:
On post, during duty hours:
Department of Behavioral Health 706-544-3590 or 706-544-2273
Army Substance Abuse Program 706-545-1138 or 706-545-4415
After duty hours:
MACH emergency room 706-544-1502
Duty chaplain 706-545-2218
Off post (24 hours)
24-hour help line 706-327-3999