FORT STEWART, Ga. - Each of us is precious.

That is what Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, 3rd Infantry Division deputy commanding general-rear, told the Soldiers and Army Civilians filling the sanctuary and overflow room at Fort Stewart's Main Post Chapel, Sept. 2. Brigadier General Phillips was the guest speaker at the "You are not alone," Suicide Prevention Week kick-off. Narrator for the event was Tom Allmon, Directorate of Human Resources director.

"Historically, the suicide rate within our military has been lower than within the civilian environment," said Allmon, after welcoming everyone and announcing this year's installation theme for Suicide Prevention Month. "Unfortunately, in 2008 this trend reversed, resulting in the Army suicide rate being higher than the rate in the civilian population."

Allmon said the Army had 242 cases of suicide in 2009, and for 2010, there have already been 187 cases of suicide. He reminded everyone that each suicide impacts not only military units and Family units but individuals. Children have to grow up without a mother or father; parents and grandparents have to live the rest of their lives without their son or daughter. Allmon also noted that suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the 3rd leading cause of death among those 15 to 24 years old.

Following Allmon's opening remarks, Chap. (Col.) Warren Kirby, garrison installation chaplain, delivered the invocation. Before he prayed, Chap. Kirby urged everyone to pay close attention to the message Brig. Gen. Phillips was about to deliver.

"Suicide affects all of us," he reminded everyone. "We need to hear this message."

Brigadier General Phillips began by commenting on the statistics Allmon had reported, noting the suicide figures were strong indicators for Army leaders to pay attention to.

"Numbers are important, but the number most important to me is the number 1 because each suicide affects us all," he said. "Each of us is precious...We are nothing without the individual."

He said no one is exempt from feelings of depression and went on to explain how he had to deal with depression in his own life, how he, like most Soldiers, especially men, was concerned with the stigma of seeking help by talking to a chaplain and whether doing so might affect his military career. He emphasized it was important for him and anyone in the same situation to be strong enough to seek help, and it was equally important for "battle buddies" and Family Members to recognize symptoms of those at risk of suicide and help them get help. Most of all, he said, we should never leave him or her alone.

Following Brig. Gen. Phillips remarks, he and Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Ashmen, 3rd ID command sergeant major-rear, signed the Suicide Prevention Month proclamation. According to Allmon, the proclamation recognizes suicide as a national public health problem and suicide prevention as a national responsibility. He said the Army's observance during the entire month of September will use "Shoulder to Shoulder - I Will Never Quit on Life" as its theme, with Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield extending the theme to remind Soldiers and Family Members facing a personal crisis or depression, "You are not alone."