By Amy Guckeen Tolson, Staff Writer Redstone RocketSeptember 14, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--It was a Friday afternoon and nearly quitting time when he appeared at Ruby Turner's door. The man was in trouble, depressed and ready to end it all by the time he reached Turner's office on Little John Road, but he had come to the right place. Escorting him to Crestwood Medical Center, she listened and acted. When he returned to her office weeks later, she didn't recognize him. The weight of his depression and suicidal thoughts had been lifted and as a result of Turner's actions that day, his life saved.
"For people having thoughts of suicide, it's an embarrassment," Turner said. "People don't see a way out. They don't see a way out of their situation. There's always a way out."
For Turner, it's an ugly word -- suicide -- but part of her job as Army Substance Abuse Program manager, a vocation she has served in for the past several decades, saving countless individuals from ending their own lives. The Army extended last week's observance of National Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 4-10, to the entire month of September to raise awareness and understanding of how each individual can eliminate suicide and what Army support services are available for those that are in need, which include Turner and her office, building 3204. While the Arsenal has seen the departure of many of its young Soldiers who were at a higher risk for suicide, there is still plenty to be done on post to prevent it.
In July, a possible 22 active duty Soldiers committed suicide, according to the Department of Defense. In the general population, for every suicide, approximately 11 others have attempted to end their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Risk factors for suicide include depression and other mental disorders, substance abuse, separation or divorce. Warning signs include talking about death, losing interest in things a person once cared about or always talking or thinking about death. While the signs and symptoms are often there, they're not always apparent to those close by.
"When we are close to a situation we don't see the signs and symptoms," Turner said. "A lot of times we don't want to see the signs and symptoms."
Turner and Richard Lewis with the Employee Assistance Program are both available to help those that may be having thoughts of suicide or to assist those that may suspect a loved one or co-worker may be having thoughts of suicide. Individuals are invited to visit their office, building 3204 on Little John Road, or call, 842-9895 or 842-9897.
"A lot of times when people suspect someone might be having thoughts of suicide, a lot of people are fearful to question it," Turner said. "It's OK to question it."
Not just OK, Turner said, but a question that may be necessary to save that life.
"It's almost like it's an unspoken word. It's an uncomfortable subject. What if you say yes? What am I going to do?" Turner said.
The answer: help them seek help. Take them to see Turner or Lewis, have them contact their doctor or escort them to the nearest hospital. Do not leave them alone and eliminate any access to firearms or other tools, such as medications, that could be used for suicide. Firearms, suffocation and poisoning are the most commonly used methods for suicide.
"You might save somebody's life," Turner said.
Turner will conduct Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training on Sept. 22-23 to train individuals across the Arsenal interested in becoming a person in their organization that people can turn to in times of trouble. The training teaches participants how to become ready, willing and able to help individuals at risk of suicide. To register, call Turner at 842-9895. Turner encourages every organization to have a designated person that people know they can turn to when thoughts of suicide occur.
"This is a person they can go to if (suicidal) thoughts are going on. It's not counseling, it's just a listening ear," Turner said. "It's important for people to have someone in their organization that they can go to."