FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 15, 2011) -- Hundreds of Aviators gathered before physical training exercises on Sept. 7 to hear Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, remark on national suicide prevention month.

As the sun rose over Howze Field, Crutchfield began a compassionate plea to his fellow Soldiers to move away from the stigmas of the past and into a more supportive role as Army members.

"Let's take care of each other. We're going to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with this awareness of suicide prevention," said Crutchfield, whose word's echoed the Army's official theme for suicide prevention month -- "shoulder-to-shoulder: building resilience in the Army Family."

The speech was coordinated in part by the Fort Rucker Army Substance Abuse Program. Denise Clark, risk reduction program manager for ASAP, explained that it was a great way to begin a month of awareness.

"Fort Rucker is doing its part to support the Army's anti-suicide initiative. Life is tough, especially in the military. Help is available. The Army is trying to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help," she said.

The stigma around seeking help is something Crutchfield admitted he had encountered during his early years as a Soldier. Unlike physical injuries that many Aviators encounter, Crutchfield explained that the psychological aspects of suicide cannot be ignored.

"I don't want [Soldiers] to choose a permanent solution to what is probably a temporary situation," he said.

In addition to the initial speech, ASAP hosts other programs to encourage Soldiers, their Family members and civilians to seek help. Next Monday and Wednesday, ASAP will host two command-sponsored events to reach out to the non-clinical side, said Linda Pappas, who has written, cast and directed a three act drama for the event. Her play, entitled Before Dialing 9-1-1 seeks to inform audiences of the signs, symptoms and prevention of suicidal behaviors.

The two ASAP events will also feature guest speakers: professor and suicide researcher Dr. Thomas Joiner from Florida State University on Monday and ASAP clinical director Donald Schuman on Wednesday.

Both ASAP staff and Crutchfield agreed that suicide prevention is a community effort. Crutchfield encouraged anyone contemplating suicide to ask for help, and urged his fellow Aviators to work together to prevent another lost life. ASAP staff offered additional advice.

Traci Dunlap, ASAP clinical case manager, encouraged the Fort Rucker community to utilize the many programs, such as financial management and Family assistance that help reduce smaller stresses before they turn into larger problems.

"Care enough to ask and let others know you care," she said.

ASAP is located in Lyster Army Health Clinic, Rm. T-100, and open 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more information or to make an appointment, call 255-1040.

For assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week, call the Military OneSource-endorsed National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK.