Fort Rucker chaplains aid in suicide prevention
Chaplain (Capt.) Bruce Wagner, 1st Bn., 13th Avn. Regt. chaplain, counsels a Soldier in his Bldg. 6225 office Aug. 20. September is Suicide Prevention Month, and post chaplains offer many resources to assist those contemplating suicide or grieving th... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Losing even one Soldier to suicide is one too many.

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and chaplains educate the public on the subject - how to identify signs and symptoms and how to cope with loss if suicide does occur within Families or units, said Chaplain (Capt.) Bruce Wagner, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment chaplain.

"Suicide Prevention Month is a good time to bring (resiliency) back to the forefront for all of us," he said.

Installation chaplains and chaplain's assistants are one resource Soldiers, Families and civilians can use when dealing with this difficult topic, he noted.

Chaplains provide confidential counseling services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Wagner said. They refer those they counsel to other post resources when necessary. Chaplains also advise commanders during unit suicide prevention training, conducted quarterly.

People can feel comfortable approaching chaplains with their challenges, because chaplains are ready and willing to listen, Wagner said.

"(A) chaplain is embedded in the battalion and knows all the Soldiers since we're part of the unit," Wagner said. "Chaplains are easily accessible."

The battalion Wagner works with includes advanced individual training Soldiers who experience many sources of stress that could potentially trigger strong emotions. For many young men and women, this could be their first long-term experiences living away from home, he said. Any Soldier can feel stressed while experiencing intensive training, Family separation, financial issues or medical problems.

People undergoing these or other difficult situations should consider visiting a chaplain. Sometimes all a person needs is a sympathetic ear.

"Sitting and allowing (Soldiers) to talk about (their issues) really reduces stress," Wagner said.

Leaders emphasize suicide prevention to the lowest level by encouraging the battle buddy system. Close friends and Family members can pick up on even slight changes and potentially suicidal tendencies, placing them on the frontline of defending against suicide, Wagner noted.

Some major indicators of suicidal thoughts include a person expressing feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness or engaging in self-destructive behavior.

Chaplain's assistants help in suicide prevention and awareness by providing their fellow Soldiers with logistical support, said Sgt. Emory Landon, 1st Bn., 13th Avn. Regt. chaplain's assistants.

Last year, 160 active-duty and 78 National Guard and Reserve Soldiers took their lives, with those numbers growing at an "alarming" rate from the previous year, Wagner said.

The Army and individual commanders use the ACE program, which trains Soldiers to "ask," "care" for and "escort" their buddies to help when potential suicide situations occur.

The military recently released a new "Shoulder to Shoulder" video to more thoroughly address the issue. People can view the video at www.army.mil/media/amp/'bcpid=6981683001&bctid=114827147001.

"Every Soldier is mission essential. One Soldier down can be detrimental to (the unit's) combat effectiveness," Landon said.