By U.S. ArmyAugust 25, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Third Infantry Division Soldiers and Family Members recognize the slogan "You Are Not Alone." When spoken, this straightforward phrase embodies the Army's stated goal of preventing suicide for Soldiers, Family Members and Civilians.
Fort Stewart Garrison Commander, Col. Kevin Milton, is quoted on the Team Stewarts Web site in an article titled "Suicide prevention starts with you,' as saying "… each of us can help make a difference. Each of us can help carry the message that when times seem darkest - You Are Not Alone."
Bottom line, while suicide is never an option, suicide prevention is about understanding risk factors and signs of concern in order for us to save lives.
"The most important thing we need to know about suicide is that it is preventable," said Dr. Paul Wade, Fort Stewart Suicide Prevention program manager and doctor of psychology. "By being aware of the signs and symptoms that are often contributing factors to suicide, the public can learn to identify those at risk and learn the skills of helping someone to seek help and to recognize that there are other options for them in their time of need."
How many of you remember ACE training? ACE stands for Ask, Care and Escort. However, in order for us to put our training into action, we need to be observant of behavior that looks unusual or suspicious and ask your battle buddy, co-worker or Family Member about what seems odd to you.
"One of the key things to look at is somebody who changes their behavior significantly," said Maria Aviles, Fort Stewart's supervisory clinical psychologist and chief of the Warrior Restoration Center.
She added that experiences with broken relationships, financial or career problems can make a Soldier more vulnerable. "Some of the key signs that people might do is that they seem completely de-motivated, they might be giving out things that were important to them, pushing away Family Members radically, and increased alcohol consumption can be associated with feeling depressed," she said. "One key indicator for us if I'm assessing somebody is hopelessness."
"All of us in the Stewart-Hunter community have a responsibility to learn about the risk factors related to suicide and the skills we need to acquire to assist those who are experiencing turmoil in their lives and may see suicide as a solution," Dr. Wade said.
Some signs of concern include:
Unrelenting low mood, pessimism, desperation, anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension, withdrawal, sleep problems and an increased use of alcohol and or other drug use according to Dr. Wade.
"By each of us being compassionate and caring for those around us, we can become more in tune with the emotions of others and better recognize when someone is not their self," Wade said.
In his command philosophy, Major General Robert "Abe" Abrams, commander of the Third Infantry Division, shared caring for Soldiers, Civilians and their Families is critical to mission readiness.
Everyone must play their part in looking out for one another and caring for those around you.
The Army has committed resources in order to prevent suicides within a comprehensive framework of information, training and leadership with the focus on suicide risk-reduction. In addition, Army leadership has worked hard to dispel negative stigmas associated with seeking help.
"My husband was afraid to reach out to say something because he thought it would be seen as a sign of weakness," said surviving spouse Sammi Elliott Hester. Hester whose husband committed suicide within the last five years.
Hester continued, "There is no sign of weakness when you say, 'I'm having trouble and need help.' That is the strongest thing you can do for yourself and Family. I lived the tail end of it. They have to get past the stigma. The aftermath when a Soldier doesn't reach out [for help] is far worse."
If you, your battle buddy, co-worker or Family Member need to talk with someone remember "You Are Not Alone." Take the first step and call Military Onesource at 800-342-9647 or the suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-8255.
For more information on suicide prevention, call the Fort Stewart Behavioral Health Clinic at 912-767-1654. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 800-273-8255 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.