FORT BUCHANAN, PUERTO RICO - Amid frequent news where citizens commit suicide on the island, military personnel, civilian employees, and dependents of Fort Buchanan participated in a testimonial-driven, educational workshop on suicide prevention, Sept. 28.
The workshop was led by David Woods Bartley, an international speaker and mental health advocate, who attempted to take his own life twelve years ago in California due to sexual trauma he experienced during his childhood.
"As someone who almost took his own life, I tell you that, as a society, we are asking the wrong question. We must stop asking ourselves why people commit suicide and start asking ourselves about the causes that lead a person to feel that taking their own life is the only solution," said Bartley.
During his emotionally charged presentation, Bartley testified how he was a victim of sexual abuse during his childhood while participating in a youth organization and used his example to illustrate how to understand people who may be inclined to take their own lives.
"We always look for signs that tell us that a person may be suicidal. The problem is that the signs are almost never visible. People commit suicide not because of what is on their minds but because of their emotions. The best weapon against suicide is hope and connecting with the people around us," added Bartley, who has presented talks on the TED channel several times.
Meanwhile, the commander of the only Army installation in the Caribbean, Colonel Charles N. Moulton, emphasized how the U.S. Army addresses this public health problem.
"We still have people who don't like to seek help. Our focus is to comprehensively promote the well-being of our military and other personnel by addressing mental needs, the ability to sleep healthily, and nutritional, spiritual, and physical needs," Moulton said.
Per Army regulation, the Holistic Health and Wellness system is the Army's primary investment in Soldier readiness. It empowers service members to take charge of their health, fitness, and well-being to optimize individual performance while preventing injuries and illnesses.
"Fort Buchanan is part of the Puerto Rican community, and as such, we are sensitive to the suicide situation that exists on the island," said Carlos Montañez, manager of the suicide prevention program at the military installation.
According to Montañez, Army chaplains, military unit ministry teams, behavioral health officers, and military and family life counselors are available and work directly with Soldiers and unit leaders on suicide prevention. Soldiers and their families can also access community resources, including Army Community Service and online resources like Military OneSource.
"Let's never forget that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness," Montanez said.
Those who need help or are concerned about a loved one who may need crisis support can call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org