SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Joint Task Force-Bravo service members observed suicide awareness month by participating in the "A.C.E. Suicide Prevention 10K run September 12, 2014. The U.S. Army amplifies the importance of resilience building and suicide awareness within the Army profession during the entire month of September. This year's theme is Enhancing Resiliency -- Strengthening Our Professionals.
Resiliency helps service members overcome adversity, bounce back from setbacks and even grow as they overcome challenges. Resiliency is a term describing skill sets to bounce back and grow following adversity. Teaching these skills to all groups and embedding the concepts into training programs throughout an Airman's career will lead to a healthier and more resilient force, less self-destructive behaviors and decreased suicides.
What if one day a friend or a battle buddy approaches you and says that they are experiencing a hardship and aren't coping very well. They feel there is no reason to live and that the world would be a better place without them. Or maybe you suffer a life-altering tragedy such as the loss of a loved one and you slide into a deep depression. What do you do?
According to the Army Suicide Prevention website, we need to take all discussions about suicide seriously. Most people tell someone before they kill themselves. The best thing to do is use the "Ask, Care, Escort" (ACE) approach. Ask that person directly if they are talking about suicide. If yes, ask if they have a plan for suicide. We need to show concern by asking open ended questions such as, "What has happened that you are considering suicide?" The next step is Care. Listen to them and be direct and honest. Don't give advice or be judgmental or lecture the person on what a stupid idea it is. Lastly, offer to Escort them to see a behavioral health provider, chaplain, or a primary care provider. Never leave them alone. It is better to have a friend who may be upset with you than a friend who is dead.
Circumstances like these are ones we would like to avoid but it is necessary to know how to react if this situation ever rears its ugly head. Fortunately, help is available and it's only a phone call away.
The resources that are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to military personnel who may be having thoughts of suicide or in a crisis include the Behavioral Health Office at the Medical Element (MEDEL), the Joint Task Force Bravo Command Chaplain and your first line supervisor, unit senior enlisted or commander. If one feels like they can't talk to one of these options, they can call the Military Crisis Line or have an online chat with a counselor on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.
U. S. Army Maj. Hilario Pascua, Medical Element Behavioral Health officer, says there are numerous signs that battle buddies and leadership need to look for concerning suicide prevention. Those include:
- Talking about suicide, death and/or no reason to live; sense of hopelessness - Preoccupied with death and dying - Withdrawal from friends and/or social activities - Experience a recent severe loss or threat of one - Drastic changes in behavior - Loss of interest in hobbies, work, school, personal appearance, etc. - Prepare for death by writing a will unexpectedly and/or giving away prized possessions - Unwillingness to connect with potential helpers
Pascua added there are many avenues available for personnel to assist them through their situation.
"There are many forms of counseling to include stress management, substance abuse, depression, and family and deployment issues. Sometimes an individual may need medication management for depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder."
U. S. Air Force Capt. Jeffery Scott, Joint Task Force-Bravo command chaplain, expressed that it is imperative that leadership stay abreast of what is going on in their troop's lives.
"This is a little tricky for leadership but they need to know what is taking place in the life of their personnel outside of work. I'm not saying they should stick their nose in everyone's business but they need to be aware of the big items such as a death or serious illness in the family, an inability to pay debts like their house or car, or they're having a difficult time with a supervisor or peer over a period of time."
A huge concern for military members is how receiving mental health treatment will affect their careers or security clearances. According to the Army Suicide Prevention website, the decision to seek counseling or treatment is viewed as a positive sign that they recognize a problem may exist and are willing to take steps towards resolving it. Early intervention is often a key to successful resolution. On the other hand, letting a mental health problem grow until their behavior endangers security may lead to a negative decision on your clearance.
"If a Service member is identified as needing help, then I would direct them to the proper place. I would keep this information only with the leadership on a need to know basis," said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Marc Stevenson, Joint Task Force-Bravo operations sergeant major. "For instance, that Service member would have to go a high risk tracker, which should only be preview by direct supervisor and command teams at different levels. I would caution the Service member on speaking about the situation because if they choose to share it, then they may be ridiculed. Anyone attempting to ridiculed or spread rumors will be counseled either in writing or verbally."
U. S. Army Lt. Col. Nicholas Dickson, the Army Forces Battalion commander, stated if he receives a phone call from a service member in a crisis situation that person becomes his main concern.
"My first concern is getting that person to a safe place; next I'll contact both the Chaplain and Behavioral Health provider and stay with them. This becomes a priority for me. No mission or resource is too big to ignore a service member who is in trouble. As I've said before, people are what make our organization great."
The Department of Defense's goal is to build a ready and resilient force. Resiliency is a term describing skill sets for military members to bounce back and grow following adversity. Teaching these skills to all groups will lead to a healthier and more resilient force with less self-destructive behaviors.
To contribute to personal readiness and resilience, we should seek out training and self development opportunities to strengthen readiness and resilience; understand our strengths and weaknesses and become familiar with resources and know how to access them for ourselves and our battle buddies.
"Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem," says U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Marc Stevenson, Joint Task Force-Bravo Operations sergeant major. "Anyone who is contemplating suicide should consider that committing suicide will cause more problems than it solves. Think of that service member's family, friends, and peers with all the heart ache they have to go through at the loss of a that service member. No problem is too big when it is shared. Together, we can find a way around any challenge, problem or concern."
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide or is in a crisis situation call one of the following numbers any time of the day to receive the help and care that is needed:
- Behavioral Health - 449-5432; 449-4190 or 504-9508-0563 after hours - Command Chaplain - 449-6844 or 504-9472-6902 after hours - Military Crisis Line - 1-800-273-8255 - National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website - http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org