News: Morale run, suicide prevention class spread awareness
Story by Sgt. Samantha Parks
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – September is the U.S. Army's annual suicide prevention awareness month. Soldiers with Multinational Battle Group-East used the month to host several key events and promote information on the best ways to seek help if an individual is hurting.
"It is important to take a moment from our busy lives and busy schedules to ask, 'Are you OK? How's it going?'" said U.S. Army Maj. David Hindman, the officer-in-charge of the Combat Operational Stress Clinic at Camp Bondsteel and a native of Cleveland, Texas. "We don't realize how much impact we could have had on an individual until it's too late." The clinic hosted the Keep Calm and Run On 5K awareness run Sept. 20 at Camp Bondsteel. "A suicide awareness run in September was a no-brainer for us to do being the Behavioral Health element on Camp Bondsteel," Hindman said. "We're trying to bring attention to the fact that we are all sensors and by knowing the warning signs and what to do, we can save a life." Hindman said last year there were 349 completed active duty suicides. "This [month] is a big push to remind soldiers and leadership that suicide is an ever present danger that needs to be addressed, and the way to do it is to pay attention to each other and our soldiers," Hindman said. Soldiers with MNBG-E also had the opportunity to participate in an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training class. "ASIST is an interactive, suicide intervention training course by the company Living Works, being used more and more by branches of the U.S. Armed Forces," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrea Eubanks, MNBG-E chaplain assistant and a native of New Bern, N.C. MNBG-E's Religious Support Team, comprising of Eubanks and CH (Maj.) Timothy Meier, had 13 soldiers from the battle group participate in the two day course.
"I think it's important to spread the word not just about suicide awareness, but about the importance of learning how to effectively engage those whose lives are at risk," Eubanks explained. "ASIST differs greatly from suicide awareness training, because the focus of ASIST is intervention, not just facts, figures and statistics." While attending an ASIST train-the-trainer program, Eubanks said she learned one is more likely during any given day to encounter someone who is having thoughts of suicide than to encounter someone with clogged arteries in danger of a heart attack.
"As soldiers, we learn CLS: lifesaving, first aid skills needed on the battlefield until more qualified help is available," Eubanks said. "ASIST basically works the same way. Participants learn ‘suicide first aid’ skills to effectively engage a person at risk until they are able to receive the professional help they need." Eubanks said she and Meier felt the class went very well for a first time and plan to host two more classes in the future. "The program is designed to be interactive, and once the material was presented, most of the participants were responsive, attentive and ready to put their skills into simulated exercises," Eubanks said. "The idea is to get soldiers more comfortable with talking about suicide, because learning how to open the lines of communication will increase the likelihood that someone at risk will be able to reach out and get the appropriate help." Eubanks added that at Camp Bondsteel services are available with the Religious Support Team and the Combat Stress Team. Army-wide, soldiers can seek assistance from a unit chaplain, Military Family Life Consultants, Military One Source or on-post mental health services. "Over the years there has been such a stigma attached to the concept of suicide, and the Army has been working hard to fight against that stigma," Eubanks said.