FORT JACKSON, SC -- As the Army studies ways to increase and improve suicide intervention resources for Soldiers on a broad scale, Fort Jackson's Suicide Prevention Task Force is conducting its own study to make sure Soldiers stationed here are getting the crisis intervention and mental health care services they need.

Since May, members of the task force have been distributing questionnaires to Fort Jackson's permanent party Soldiers to gain insight into the effectiveness of post-wide suicide prevention programs and services.

Roughly 676 Soldiers, or about 20 percent of the Fort Jackson's permanent party population, are expected to have completed the survey by the end of this week.
An analysis of the results is expected to be presented to the post Community Health Promotion Council by late August, said Ernestine Richardson, post alcohol and drug control officer and task force coordinator.

Though taking the survey is voluntary and anonymous, Soldiers completing the survey are selected among subgroups of the permanent party population, based on criteria such as age, sex and makeup of the Soldier's unit.

"The purpose of the survey is to see how satisfied Soldiers are with the installation's mental health services, how likely they are to seek help and to identify any stigmas associated with seeking help," Richardson said.

The survey also covers training in suicide prevention, asking participants if they feel they have received sufficient training to help others contemplating suicide, and whether they feel confident they can implement that training, Richardson said.

"We're hoping those who take the survey will give us good information and honest feedback," she said. "We can then make rational determinations of what to do with that information."

Fort Jackson's task force, which was created in May 2009, consists of psychologists, behavioral and public health specialists, post chaplains, risk reduction and prevention coordinators, as well as personnel representing various service groups at Fort Jackson, such as the Army Substance Abuse Program, Directorate of Emergency Services and Army Community Services.

It is similar to the Army's task force in its overall goal to reduce the risk of suicide among Soldiers, Richardson said. However, it studies trends unique to Fort Jackson's diverse population.

"The battle rhythm is unique to Fort Jackson and the only way to know how it impacts the Soldiers ... is to research the issues found here," she said.

Robert Youmans, director of Human Resources and task force manager, said the purpose
of the task force is to collect data; identify trends; provide the Community Health Promotion Council (which is chaired by the commanding general) guidance; and to inform commanders how to better educate their Soldiers about warning signs of suicide and about crisis intervention resources available on post.

"We talk to leaders about those things that can trigger suicide and we encourage them to get intimately involved - to get to know their Soldiers better - so they are in a better position to hopefully prevent suicide," Youmans said.

"By securing the safety of individuals at risk for suicide, we minimize the adverse effects of suicidal behavior on unit cohesion and other military personnel, and preserve mission effectiveness and our war-fighting capability," Richardson said.

"Because at the end of the day," Youmans said, "the Army wants Soldiers to be fit to go do what they're supposed to do - fight wars and provide security for our nation."
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