FORT MCCOY, Wis. - In June the Army hit an unwanted milestone a record number of suicides, in particular reservists. With an increasing number of soldiers committing suicide or participating in high-risk behavior the Army has made combating this priority number one.
In September the Army will reveal its new training program to try and shine the spotlight on this ever growing problem. Shoulder to Shoulder (I will never quit on life) program will coincide with September, which is national suicide prevention month.
There are many reasons why soldiers commit suicide, each specific to that soldier and the stresses in their military and personal life. As soldiers we must keep a careful watch on all our friends and colleagues throughout the military and civilian life, because the warning signs are there to be seen.
Suicide or thoughts of suicide are generally triggered by stressors in life and can change a soldiers mood dramatically. Look for soldiers who seem to be acting differently than they normally would, increased anger, shouting on the phone to a loved one back home, depression or someone who recently experienced a friend’s death. All these things are just a few examples of how things in your normal life can lead a soldier to contemplate ending their own suicide.
“I always try and listen to hear what it is that has gotten them to this point of crisis, said Capt. Deris Rice, chaplain, 86th Training Brigade. I try to communicate through my body language and through my conversation that I care. I genuinely care about them; I want to be there with them. I don’t expect the crisis to immediately stop unless I am willing to dive in there with them.”
If you are thinking suicidal thoughts, or know someone who might be, make sure to get them help from a squad leader, chaplain, behavioral health specialist or anyone whose shoulder you can confide on. It may take some time to get someone to a place where they feel comfortable opening up, just be there as best you can and assure them that there is help out there.
“First thing, never leave the soldier alone. Second thing you want to convey is that you care for them and want to listen to them. Remove any form of threats, anything they can use to harm themselves with said Deris. Sometimes when people are desperate they aren’t thinking clearly and then get them to a point where they trust you and get them the help.”
A large problem with military suicides is the fact that many soldiers believe it’s a sign of weakness to get help, this is why it’s important for every soldier to reach out and help a friend in need.
There are many ways to get help while in the military including combat stress and Chaplain Services.
“A key part for preventing suicide is that you know where the resources are,” said Deris.
The Army’s new Shoulder to Shoulder program seeks to decrease the divide between soldiers and the help they need by educating, teaching and increasing resources.
Suicide is a serious problem in the military and only with the combined strength of our soldiers can we hope to greatly reduce the tragic ending to so many important people. Never quit on life.