FORT BRAGG, N.C. – “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Take a minute to think about this statement. Almost every soldier would agree that this is one of the most important excerpts of the Warrior Ethos. What does it mean to you?
As a soldier, we not only make a pledge to the nation, but also a guarantee to each and every one of our battle buddies to serve and protect. It is a promise between each other with an expectation that we will always take care of each other, on and off the battlefield.
Deployments may play a small, statistical role in military suicides, but it is not the main reason soldiers decide to commit suicide. There are a plethora of other reasons a soldier, veteran or family member might decide that suicide is their only option.
According to Elizabeth Goolsby, director, Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Fayetteville, N.C., the Fayetteville Veterans Affairs Medical Center and its Community Based Outpatient Clinics cared for 55,000 veteran patients in 2012.
When a soldier leaves the military service, often times the stressor of an unstructured lifestyle, problems obtaining employment and financial issues, to name a few, can cause a veteran great distress. Without the support of their battle buddies and other friends and family, the mental health of a veteran can spiral downward – quickly.
“Two of those patients took their own lives. One patient had no known mental health issues or concerns; the other did have a mental health history and was engaged in active treatment. The total of seven deaths by suicide since 2009, including these two, is a tragic and premature loss of life. One suicide is one too many,” said Goolsby.
Suicide prevention programs are in place throughout the military, and continue to offer training classes for units as often as they need it. Even though these programs are somewhat effective to soldiers who currently serve, sometimes our veterans are forgotten. What happens to our friends who leave military service?
It is important not only to look after those you serve shoulder to shoulder with, but also keep in touch with soldiers who have left military service. They may be struggling with something big, and all they need is someone to talk to who understands things from their perspective.
According to the Army’s Shoulder to Shoulder No Soldier Stands Alone Training Guide, research shows that the vast majority of suicidal individuals provide definite danger signals and warning signs of their intentions. By becoming aware of the people around them, and recognizing the warning signs, a person can properly intervene, and the number of suicides will likely decrease.
Take notice of how other soldiers, family members or veterans react to bad events: changes in mood, isolation, aggressive behavior, substance abuse, drinking, anxiety, withdrawal and so on. Soldiers who exhibit these warning signs are often asking for help.
Step up and watch out for your buddies because one day you could be that person who intervenes without even knowing it, and save their life. Remember to Ask about self harm, Care, listen, and stay with buddy, and Escort to help, or call 9-1-1.
If you or someone you know struggles with suicidal thoughts, save their life, get them the help they need.
• Call the national crisis line for the military and veterans, 1-800-273-8255, or send a text to 838255.
• AKO Suicide Prevention: https://www.us.army.mil/suite/page/334798
• Army Families Online: http://www.armyfamiliesonline.org/
• BattleMind: http://www.battlemind.org/
• Behavioral Health: http://www.behavioralhealth.army.mil/
• Health Information Operations (HIO) Website: http://chppm-www.apgea.army.mil/hio_public/orders.aspx
• Hooah4Health Suicide Prevention website: http://www.hooah4health.com/mind/suicideprev/default.htm
• Military One Source: www.militaryonesource.com
• Office Chief of Chaplains: http://www.chapnet.army.mil/
• USACHPPM Combat Stress: http://chppm-www.apgea.army.mil/dhpw/Population/combat.aspx
• USACHPPM Spiritual Fitness: http://chppm-www.apgea.army.mil/dhpw/Readiness/spirit.aspx
• USACHPPM Suicide Prevention: http://chppm-www.apgea.army.mil/dhpw/Readiness/suicide.aspx
• U.S. Army Suicide Prevention Program (ASPP): http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/default.asp