Helping prevent Soldier suicides


he number of suicides has dramatically increased since the start of the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan in 2001. In fiscal year 2009, the Army reported 239 suicides across the reserve and active components of the Army. In that same time, 1,713 Soldiers attempted suicide. In fiscal year 2010, the number of suicides increased. But as the Army has stepped up its suicide prevention training, those numbers have slowly dropped. In an effort to continue to see those numbers decrease, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III has ordered a suicide “stand down” day, scheduled for Sept. 27, at installations across the Army. Many factors contribute to Soldiers considering suicide, according to the Army Health Promotion Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention Report 2010 published by Gen. Peter Chiarelli, then the vice chief of staff of the Army. Soldiers, more than the American population at

large, often condone or participate in high-risk behavior. In addition, with multiple deployments during the past 11 years, many Soldiers and their families feel the stress and strain of combat. Staff Sgt. Timothy Warden, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, First U.S. Army, used his suicide prevention training Oct. 9, 2011, when he recognized warning signs in a fellow Soldier. “We were at the 24/7 Shoppette, and I was getting ready to go to the range,” Warden said. “An individual approached me and started talking about how it was over, how he was done. I asked if he was getting out or what he was doing, and he said, ‘No, I’m done — if you know what I mean.’” When Warden recognized the despair in the Soldier’s voice, the alcohol on his breath and the cut marks on his wrists, he stepped outside to call the military police. Knowing such signs is important for all Soldiers and NCOs to help prevent suicides, he said. When a Soldier feels hopelessness or helplessness, focuses only on the negative, or abuses alcohol or other substances that Soldier needs help. “We need to be aware of our Soldiers and pay attention,” Warden said. “I could have easily walked out and not paid attention, but I noticed the signs. We all need to be aware of what to look for.” In his report, Chiarelli outlined the stressors in the Army that can lead to suicide and how NCOs can help Soldiers cope with those stressors. “We must identify our Soldiers who are at-risk, mitigate their stress and, if necessary, personally intervene to assist them,” Chiarelli wrote. “By working
 A senior NCO examines the Army Suicide Awareness Guide for Leaders, a comprehensive, quick reference for identifying Soldiers at risk and connecting them to suicide-intervention resources. Photo by



Warning Signs
The more alert Soldiers are to detecting potential suicides, the better able they’ll be to prevent them. Below are some warning signs that are red flags a Soldier might need help: TAlk OF SuIcIdE, including references in casual conversation or mentioning killing someone. GIvING AwAy pROpERTy or showing disregard for what happens to one’s things. wITHdRAwAl from friends or usual activities, or showing a lack of interest. plANNING TO kIll, including acquiring the means or talking about how they would. OBSESSION wITH dEATH, including music or art that references suicide. FINAlIzING pERSONAl AFFAIRS, including writing a will or discussing his or her funeral. RElATIONSHIp ISSuES, including problems with a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse. BIzARRE BEHAvIOR or showing unusual behavior in a person you know well. MIScONducT, including Soldiers in trouble with an Article 15 or UCMJ action. FINANcIAl pROBlEMS, including not being able to pay monthly bills.

Suicide prevention: Army resources
 1-800-273 TAlk (8255): the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7; Soldiers can press 1 for specialized military and veteran assistance. They may also visit the website, www. pREvENTSuIcIdE.ARMy. MIl: the Army’s Suicide Prevention Program. AR 600-24, Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention: the Army’s regulation governing how Army leaders should handle potential suicides. The publication may be downloaded at: AR600-24 THE dEFENSE cENTER OF ExcEllENcE for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center: info available at www.dcoe., or by phone at 1-800-342-9647 AMERIcAN FOuNdATION FOR SuIcIdE pREvENTION: SuIcIdE pREvENTION RESOuRcE cOuNcIl:


ACe: how to intervene
ASk yOuR Buddy about whether he or she is planning to commit suicide, and have the courage to stay calm and ask directly, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” cARE FOR yOuR Buddy by calmly controlling the situation, staying safe and not using force. Actively listen to what he or she says and provide relief. Remove items that can be used for suicide. EScORT yOuR Buddy to your chain of command, a chaplain, behavioral health professional or primary care provider or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

SourCE: offiCE of thE ChiEf of LEgiSLativE LiaiSon, aPriL 2012

together, we can provide holistic care for help-seeking Soldiers while acting firmly to reduce the high-risk population.” In his visits with Soldiers and NCOs around the Army, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III has emphasized what needs to be done to prevent suicide. “It is a devastating loss when one of our own dies from suicide,” Chandler said in his suicide prevention and stigma reduction message video. “We continue to implement programs, policies and services aimed at raising awareness, reducing risk

and providing support for those who need help.” Preventing suicide goes along with being a good leader, knowing your Soldiers and ensuring that they’re taken care of, Chandler said. “I’m calling on our noncommissioned officers to make a difference,” Chandler said. “As the backbone of our Army, you are in the best position to be in the first line of defense.”
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