By Spc. Paul A. HolstonNovember 14, 2012
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- With reduction of suicides being a top priority amongst Fort Bragg and the Army as a whole, six representatives from across the installation held a media roundtable discussing suicide prevention Sept. 20th at Stryker Golf Course.
Topics included assistance available to service members who contemplate suicide, the many treatment programs provided on Fort Bragg, real-life situations of dealing with suicides within a unit, as well as someone with a firsthand experience of contemplating suicide.
"If you are here, you recognize the urgency that our entire nation is facing," said Col. Chad McRee, 16th Military Police Brigade commander and Fort Bragg suicide prevention program manager. "We're very concerned about this subject matter."
"Instead of looking at suicide prevention as a service, Fort Bragg has decided to call it a mission that each of commanders on the installation has an obligation to support our Soldiers, families, and DA civilians," said McRee.
Other roundtable discussion members included Chaplain (Col.) Ran Dolinger, the Fort Bragg Garrison Chaplain; Col. Jay E. Earles, Womack Army Medical Center's Chief of Behavioral Health; Lt. Col. Michael Baumeister, 82nd Sustainment Brigade deputy commander; Master Sgt. Eric W. Brooks, the non-commissioned officer in charge of G-3 Training of United States Army Special Operations Command and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training Trainer; and Whitney Brenner, the Fort Bragg Health Promotion Officer.
"There are many programs on Fort Bragg, as well as across the country, provided for those who want to seek help," said Brenner. "This includes the Military One Source, Military Life Consultants who are anonymous, behavioral health care, as well as Chaplains."
"Your friend next to you can even help you," said Brenner. "It's all about reaching out to help someone."
Dealing with suicide within a unit can be traumatic, as Baumeister, who as a young officer in the mid-90s, dealt with two Soldiers in his platoon who took their own lives within 30 days of each other. As a battalion commander in 2010, another Soldier of his took her own life.
"The comparison between those 18 years is not even close to the effort and focus that we as an Army have towards the prevention of suicide," said Baumeister. "Fort Bragg is leading the way in this … and it is a personal agenda of mine to prevent (suicide) and care for our Soldiers, as well as our Family members. We are moving in an incredibly positive direction on this very important challenge."
Brooks, who contemplated about suicide as a staff sergeant in 2004, said he became an example of one of the many Soldiers who have benefited from the services available to overcome.
"I was starting to display symptoms of severe depression and anxiety disorder," said Brooks. "Because of those symptoms I found myself spiraling lower and lower, deeper and deeper to the point where the emotional and physical pain got so unbearable that I finally had to go and seek help for myself."
"I told myself that if I don't seek this help, I'm going to die, and what's a career if you're dead anyway," said Brooks. "Eight years later, I've become extremely successful and my role as a Soldier was not at all challenged. It made me a better leader and it allows me to tell others that if I can do it, anyone can do it."
The entire Army will observe a suicide stand down Sept. 27 when all units will focus on training and education to reinforce suicide prevention, ways to help prevent others who may be contemplating self harm, as well as the training and treatment resources available to the Fort Bragg community.