By Lisa R. RhodesOctober 4, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Oct. 4, 2012) -- In the past 14 months, six service members who were assigned to Fort Meade committed suicide: three Soldiers, two Marines and one Sailor.
Five of the suicides occurred this year, although not all were on the installation.
"It's mind-boggling to have one suicide, never mind six," said Navy Cmdr. Marivic Fields, director of Behavior Health Patient Management and a licensed social worker at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center and interim health promotion officer for the installation's Community Health Promotion Council.
To educate the community about the risks for suicide and reinforce the importance of suicide prevention, the installation held its first community Suicide Stand-down Day on Sept. 26 at the Post Theatre.
The mandatory event was organized by the garrison, the Community Health Promotion Council, Religious Support Office, the Directorate of Planning, Training, Mobilization and Support, and the Installation Safety Office.
More than 700 service members, Department of the Army civilians, and garrison leaders attended a series of four 90-minute seminars on suicide and suicide prevention.
"The stand-down created not only an awareness of the problem of suicide, but it also provided a vehicle for our workforce to dialogue on this serious problem," said Kenneth Jones, Army Substance Abuse Program manager and the Suicide Prevention Program manager. "It also provided an opportunity for support service agencies to be specific about what they provide and the steps that are in process to mitigate this problem."
The stand-down followed the directive of Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, vice chief of staff of the Army, who ordered an Armywide Suicide Stand-down for Sept. 27. The theme was "Shoulder to Shoulder, We Stand Up for Life."
Fort Meade's stand-down included a screening of the training video "Shoulder to Shoulder: Finding Strength and Hope Together." Produced by the Army Suicide Prevention Program, the video features senior and junior Soldiers, DA civilians, family members and mental health professionals whose lives have been touched by suicide.
After the screening, Dr. Mark Fisher, chief of behavior pediatrics at Kimbrough and a Medical Department Activity subject matter expert on suicide, led a discussion on how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and how to assist someone who is at risk.
"If we talk about suicide, we can prevent it," Fisher said, noting that more than 50 percent of suicides are impulsive and not planned.
Fisher said some of the risk factors for suicide are drug and substance abuse, financial and relationship problems, depression, isolation, illness and work-related problems.
"A lot of suicides are not about wanting to die, but relieving the pain," he said.
If Soldiers and civilians suspect that a colleague, friend or loved one is suicidal, Fisher said they should follow the guidelines of the Army ACE Suicide Intervention Training Program, developed by the U.S. Army Public Health Command. ACE is an acronym for "Ask, Care and Escort."
Fisher said Soldiers, civilians and leaders should ask the person at risk if he or she is thinking of committing suicide, listen to the individual's concerns, remove any means for self-injury and then escort the person to the chain of command, a chaplain or a mental health professional.
The stand-down also included a question and answer period led by staffers from the Religious Support Office, Kimbrough's behavioral health division and the Army Substance Abuse Program.
Among the questions, several service members asked if seeking mental health care can be an impediment to being approved for a security clearance.
Dr. Scott Salvatore, director of behavioral health development at Kimbrough, said that since 2008, service members are no longer required to report mental health care that is related to combat, marital issues or grief on Form SF86 for a security clearance.
Sgt. 1st Class Gustavo Ruiz, the master resiliency trainer for Kimbrough, later gave a brief presentation on the link between optimistic thinking and resiliency.
Information about garrison and local resources for mental health care and suicide prevention was also available.
Lt. Col. Ryan Gutzwiller of the Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion, who said a service member from the unit recently committed suicide, said the event provided an opportunity for military leaders to educate themselves about suicide and the resources available to help service members in need.
"It was very informative and very important," said Capt. Georgeanna Green of First Army Division East. "I learned about the services that I can reach out to, to assist someone."