Staff Sgt. Matthew Leary, a horizontal construction engineer with the 554th Engineer Battalion, looks through giveaways at a suicide prevention event today on Gerlach Field.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Leary, a horizontal construction engineer with the 554th Engineer Battalion, looks through giveaways at a suicide prevention event today on Gerlach Field. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Gerlach Field was full of games, fellowship and teambuilding today — to prevent suicide. Some people may feel like the reason for the playful event is an unlikely pairing, but organizers say they want to normalize talking about suicide and build a community so strong that every member feels supported.

This is the 2nd year for the Field Day for Suicide Prevention, hosted by the Army Substance Abuse Program to raise awareness during the month of September, Suicide Prevention Month.

Maj. Daniel Good, a psychologist in General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital’s Behavioral Health department, said events like this, “help to reduce stigma, get people talking and help to address these concerns.”

“In the past, some people thought if you talked about suicide, it would increase suicides, but that is definitely not the case,” Good said. “It is important to let the community know that this is important to us.”

Malia Nemetz, an ASAP specialist and one of the event organizers, said the field day is an event that mixes fun with education.

“This event allows everyone to share in a fun experience and have an opportunity to speak with the subject matter experts in a non-threatening environment. This environment may open the door for personnel to seek help and realize there is no barrier to getting the help you need here on Fort Leonard Wood,” Nemetz said.

Several Fort Leonard Wood organizations set up booths with games around the field. In addition to the Army Substance Abuse Program booth, representatives from Army Community Service, Armed Forces Wellness Center, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, Workforce Development, Fort Leonard Wood Department of Public Health, GLWACH Behavioral Health, Military Family Life Counseling, Ready and Resilient Performance Center and the Religious Support Office were on hand to participate in field games and share their knowledge with attendees.

“Suicide is a difficult topic to talk about, but we need to be open about talking to each other,” Nemetz said. “Empathy is an important tool in assisting personnel in crisis.”

This is something Nemetz personally understands.

“I have seen firsthand how that can change the dynamic of a team, platoon and unit after losing a valuable member,” Nemetz said. “Behavioral health is important to me. Having open conversations and developing a safe plan together shows that behavioral health disorders are nothing to be ashamed of. It’s OK not to be OK.”

Good said getting help for suicidal thoughts in a culture that can seem like it encourages people to pretend like everything is OK when it is not, “shows you are strong, that you are not controlled by what other people may think.”

“It’s a common feeling that many people have had. Asking for help shows courage in that it proves that you can push through fear and stigma to do the right thing for yourself and your loved ones,” Good said.

Ask, Care, Escort

When someone needs help, experts recommend remembering the acronym ACE:

  • Ask your battle buddy or family member if he or she is thinking about harming themselves.
  • Care for your battle buddy or family member by listening and reassuring them that immediate help is available. Calmly talk to them and remove any means they might use to harm themselves.
  • Escort your battle buddy or family member to get help. This can be an emergency room, a primary care provider or a behavioral health professional. If they refuse to go with you, do not leave them alone. Call the national suicide prevention helpline, 9-8-8, if necessary.

Fort Leonard Wood has several programs, organizations and counselors available to service members and their families, who might be struggling with stressors and considering self-harm. They include:

  • Family Advocacy Program - 573.569.1507
  • Armed Forces Wellness Center - 573.596.9677
  • Army Community Service - 573.596.2012
  • Employee Assistance Program (for Department of Defense civilians) - 573.596.7199
  • Army Substance Abuse Program - 573.596.0938
  • Behavioral Health Service Line - 573.596.0522
  • Chaplain – 573.596.2127, emergency after hours 573.563.6126

Additionally, Military OneSource also provides free and confidential 24/7 support to service members and their families at 1.800.342.9647. Visit the Army Resiliency webpage for additional help and resources.