By Mr. Bruce J Hill (IMCOM)October 4, 2012
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - More than 180 Soldiers and civilians from U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton and tenant units gathered at the post theater Sept. 27 to participate in an Army-wide suicide stand down in an effort to curb the rising number of suicides in the Army and improve recognition of symptomatic behaviors.
As this year's theme focused on being shoulder to shoulder to stand up for life, the mandated stand down follows a spike in the number of self-inflicted deaths, with 187 suspected suicides this year including 38 suspected suicides in the month of July alone, which is the highest month on record in the Army.
Keynote speakers included Chap. (Maj.) Jamison Bowman, Ken McMillan, Army Substance Abuse Program manager and Bernadette McSweeney, Employee Assistance Program representative. Each shared their knowledge in their respective areas of expertise.
"All of our senior leaders have acknowledged that the Army's suicide rate is unacceptable," Bowman said. "It is being noticed not only in the military but outside of the military. Due to the serious nation of this problem, Army leadership decided to have this Army-wide stand down in order to train properly for intervention."
The training stressed the importance of taking the time to get to know those around you, to recognize potential signs and say something.
"If this were your daughter, your son or the most important person in your life, what would you say so you don't lose them? Even if you don't know what to say, don't leave them alone," said Col. Eluyn Ginés, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton commander.
After meeting in the theater, Soldiers and employees had the opportunity to break into small groups to watch interactive videos and discuss recognizing and responding to suicidal intentions.
"I thought the breakout sessions went really well," said McMillan. "I was quite surprised by the discussions and responses made by the group. We had a mixture of Soldiers and civilians who added different perspectives to the scenarios. For all intents and purposes, suicide is suicide, but people see things differently based on their experiences."
Several attendees had the opportunity to share their experiences with suicide. Command Sgt. Maj. Hector Prince, USAG Fort Hamilton command sergeant major recalled not only that his driver of two years committed suicide, but how he almost walked away from the chance to save someone else's life.
"A lot of times we don't pay attention to our surroundings because we're too busy," he said. "Sometimes we are so preoccupied with ourselves; we can't see what's going on around us."
Many experts on suicide agree that people with suicidal ideation do not really want to die, but instead want to escape pain or a bad situation they are in.
"No one really wants to die," Ginés said. "We have to help eliminate the stigma that you saying need help is a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength to seek help."