KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan– Senior non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers alike, deployed to Southern Kandahar Afghanistan, are diligently working to defeat an enemy that continues to take the lives of soldiers, both in and out of war zones.
Soldiers of 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, recently spent a week training more than 4,000 soldiers on the signs and symptoms of depression and suicidal tendencies during a suicide awareness and prevention re-emphasis period.
U.S. Army chaplain, Maj. Herb Franklin, said he believes making Soldiers more aware of the suicidal signs in themselves as well as their battle buddies can dramatically lower the number of suicides and suicidal attempts.
Capt. Jungu Lee, chaplain for 25th Brigade Support Battalion, 1/25 SBCT, agrees with Franklin and added that the combination of increased awareness and caring from battle buddies can significantly affect whether a suicidal thought turns into a suicidal action.
Suicide awareness and prevention has been a concern that has caught the attention of Department of Defense officials.
"Suicide prevention training and awareness are vital components of the Army's health promotion and risk reduction efforts against the tragic occurrence of suicide within our ranks," said Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1, in an Army release earlier this year. "It is a priority that deserves our full attention and continued emphasis by all leaders. Junior leaders and first-line supervisors can be especially effective in assisting those in a moment of crisis.”
Franklin agrees with Bostick and said one of the most common misconceptions among soldiers is that seeking help will hinder or put an end to a soldiers’ career.
“The biggest misconception about getting help is that getting help is a sign of weakness,” Franklin said. “I truly believe seeking help is a sign of strength.”
Army commanders are tackling suicide head on by increasing the awareness of signs and symptoms through increased training and awareness programs like the Army’s Ask, Care, and Escort, recognized more commonly as the (ACE) program.
Governed by Army regulation 600-63, the ACE program provides Soldiers with simple steps to intervene and help fellow Soldiers who may struggle with suicidal thoughts.
“The ‘ACE’ program is a great means of offering help to those struggling,” Franklin said.
“We collaborate extensively with other Federal and national programs to assure we remain abreast of the very latest research and best practices.” Bostick said.
The Army has also dedicated a wide range of resources to mitigate the risks. Some of the popular programs include virtual behavioral healthcare, military family life consultants and transitional assistance management programs (TAMP).
The virtual behavioral healthcare allows Ssldiers with behavioral health issues to seek and receive outpatient treatment online. This option allows soldiers to get the help they need where they are most comfortable.
Military family life consultants work closely with the Army Community Service program to provide non-medical counseling services to help soldiers and their families cope with stressful situations.
TAMP is a service that allows certain soldiers to receive military health benefits after they have transitioned out of the Army.
An Army release in September is evidence that these programs combined with advancements in research and practices being set forth by the Army are working.
According to the September report, the number of potential suicides among Active duty members was 19, down from 22 in July. Investigations are still pending for many of the potential suicides with only three confirmed in August and five confirmed in July.
Although the numbers are considerably lower than the national average, Army commanders, chaplains and senior leaders are still taking the steps necessary to prevent any unnecessary deaths.
Franklin and Lee agree with Bostick that the Army’s suicidal prevention programs are making a considerable difference and both agree that it takes more to save a life than just an increase in training.
“The key is caring about each other and taking steps to put that caring into action,” Franklin said. “The key to saving a life is a caring relationship.”
According to Lee and Franklin there’s only one goal at the end of the day and the leaders will continue to do everything within their means to accomplish it.
“In the end we just want everyone to do everything in their power to prevent suicide within our formation,” Franklin said.
For soldiers who may know someone or who might be dealing with suicidal thoughts or depression the Army has resources to help. For help log onto http://phc.amedd.army.mil/ or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at
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This work, Deployed soldiers shift focus to suicide prevention, by SSG Thomas Duval, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.