Suicide Prevention awareness month (SEPT) - Reaching out to others can aid in suicide prevention
Story by: COL Kevin P Brown
Fort Riley Garrison Commander
Our Soldiers, Family members and civilian employees are our most valuable resources.
Our Soldiers carry out the Army's mission. Their Families support them while they're at home and deployed. Civilian employees provide services and support to our Soldiers and their Families. One, without the others, just doesn't make a complete team.
When we lose a member of our team to suicide, everyone feels it. I want everyone on this post to know suicide is not the answer. I want them to know how they can get help, and that we do care. September is Suicide Prevention Month and just one of the times throughout the year we can get the word out.
For years now, our team has been working day and night to keep up with a high operational tempo. It can be draining. Numerous deployments and the stress of being away from Family can seem insurmountable at times.
If that becomes the case for you, don't be afraid to seek help. All units at Fort Riley have trained gatekeepers. If stress is overwhelming you and you've thought about suicide, seek out your unit gatekeeper. Chaplains, in units and for the installation, can provide help. And don't forget about your friends. They are there for you.
If you are a friend, co-worker or leader who someone reaches out to, know what to do. Be aware, however, that not everyone reaches out. Pay attention to those around you – your coworkers, fellow Soldiers, the other spouses in your Family Readiness Group. Take what they say and their actions seriously.
Most suicides are in reaction to feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness or guilt. Risk factors may include relationship problems, work-related problems, substance abuse, medical problems and severe or perceived unmanageable stress. It can be easy for some to get trapped into a cycle of negative thoughts.
If someone comes to you for help, remember the ACE acronym:
Ask your buddy – Have the courage to ask the question directly, "Are you thinking of killing yourself?"
Care for your buddy – Remove means which could be used for self-injury; calmly control the situation; and actively listen to produce relief.
Escort your buddy – Never leave your buddy alone; escort them to the chain of command, a chaplain, a behavioral health professional or a primary care provider.
Besides having the resources to help individuals get the help they need when they need it, Fort Riley also has programs in place to build resiliency and teach our team members how to deal with the ongoing stresses of Army life.
The Army's first Resilient Spouse Academy started in August at Fort Riley. Through that program, spouses are being trained as additional sensors to be prepared to help and spot anyone who may be having suicidal thoughts.
The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program focuses on strengthening our Soldiers', Family members' and civilian employees' abilities to maintain healthy physical, mental, spiritual, Family and social lives.
Family Life Ministries, our chapel programs and Strong Bonds program help Soldiers and Family members stay in touch with their spiritual sides. Chaplains also provide counseling to help strengthen marriages and provide single Soldiers with the skills they need to develop healthy relationships.
Every morning you can see our Soldiers exercising their resiliency during physical training. At gyms across post, civilians and Family members utilize programs and classes to build their physical strength. Civilian employees can participate in the My Life Fitness program, which teaches them healthy lifestyle choices and how to make working out a part of their lives. We're on our way to providing child care in one of the post's gyms to make it easier for spouses to work out.
One of the main components of strengthening our Soldiers' mental strength is the military life consultant program. Military life consultants meet with Soldiers upon their redeployment to talk about stresses or worries they may have. Soldiers may meet with or without their spouses, and the off-the-record appointments allow Soldiers to find the resources they may need.
Family programs abound on post. Anywhere you turn at Army Community Service, you'll run into someone who provides a service to our Families. From parenting classes to volunteer opportunities, "ACS has a program for that." There are numerous ways to strengthen Family ties before, during and after deployments.
One of the things many of us forget to do during our hectic work days is to schedule time to breathe, enjoy our Family and friends or just do something we enjoy.
Make time for yourself. Whether it's participating in a Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers trip, taking a class at the Arts and Crafts Center or getting in a game of golf, connecting with others socially is an important way to build resiliency. Keep an eye on the newspaper for upcoming events you can get involved in, or visit www.rileymwr.com.
We all deal with emotions differently. Building our resilience reserves can give us the strength we need to realize a situation is something we can deal with, and if we need help, it's okay to ask.
Stay Army Strong! Great Resources: