By Franklin FisherSeptember 20, 2012
By Franklin Fisher
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea -- When U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and USAG Casey next week hold a suicide prevention "stand down" day, they will be playing a part in a larger, Army-wide push to help curb suicides within the Army family.
As part of that push, the Army has extended this September's annual "Suicide Prevention Week" to an entire month's duration.
And it's designated Sept. 27 as a "stand down" day throughout the Army in an effort to reduce suicides and build resiliency.
During the stand down, the garrison's Soldiers, civilians -- and those family members who choose to participate -- will gather for suicide prevention briefings and other activities at Area I installations. Among such events are those scheduled for 9 a.m., Sept. 27 at the Camp Casey Community Activity Center and the Camp Red Cloud Theater.
"Good leaders create an environment where Soldiers and their families feel that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness," Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson, commanding general, Eighth U.S. Army, said in a recent statement.
"Soldiers need to know their leaders care and that suicide prevention is a priority for Eighth Army," Johnson said. "They also need to know that when they come to us, they can trust us -- we're equipped with the knowledge and resources necessary to get them the help they need."
The audiences will hear from chaplains and others trained in helping prevent suicide.
Leaders of USAG Red Cloud's Headquarters and Headquarters Company and Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment were to hold discussions with their troops, using materials available on an official Army website, www.preventsuicide.army.mil.
Also on Sept. 27, units will hold resilience sessions designed to help Soldiers become more psychologically resilient in the face of the stresses they may encounter.
In addition, family-oriented events were to be held with the goal of making family members aware of what help the Army provides.
The 2nd Infantry Division is also planning events for the stand down, division officials said.
Among key aims of the stand down day are: to better equip the Area I community in preventing further loss of life, to increase awareness of what kinds of help is available for suicide prevention, to counter any notion that seeking help will carry a stigma.
This month's extra emphasis on suicide prevention comes as part of the Army's ongoing effort to curb suicides, said Sondia Fontenot, Rick Reduction Program manager with the Area I Army Substance Abuse Program.
According to Army records, the total number of Army suicides in 2012 stood at 222 as of Sept. 13, Fontenot said.
The stand down comes on the heels of two annual suicide prevention training sessions scheduled earlier this month, mainly for Department of the Army civilians in Area I, one Sept. 13 at Camp Casey, the other Sept. 20 at Camp Red Cloud.
Audiences were shown suicide prevention videos and heard briefings from experts on the subject.
"It educated the community to know how to respond quicker and to know where to respond," Fontenot said.
The presentations aimed to help audiences learn to spot signs of those at risk for suicide and to know what to do if they find such a person in a crisis state.
One part of the presentation offered practical tips on what can be done to help spot these signs someone may be suicidal: the person says he or she needs help; talks of suicidal thoughts or actions; gives away possessions; suddenly starts making a will; shows signs of alcohol or drug use, or the abuse of either; is isolated; has changes in eating habits or sleep patterns; is sad, depressed, irritable or short-tempered.
And the presentation offered tips contained on what's known as the "ACE card," for Ask-Care-Escort, which is distributed to Soldiers and others in Army communities, and contains simple, practical tips on how to help someone who may be suicidal.
The ACE card spells out three actions main actions: directly but calmly ask him whether he's thinking of suicide; listen closely and give him a chance to talk about what's bothering him; rather than leaving him alone, take him to a health facility, chaplain, to his unit leadership or some other place where trained professionals can take over from there.
The Army also maintains a confidential Military Crisis Line that allows Soldiers who are active-duty, Guard or Reserve, and their families, to call for confidential help. The Military Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255, then press 1. For a confidential online chat, visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ActiveDuty.aspx and select the red confidential chat tab at the top of the page.