Deployed Forces: Deployed chaplains discuss suicide prevention, reach-out methods

| August 26, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Spc. Britney Bodner
U.S. Forces-Iraq

Deputy Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Keith Goode, U.S Forces-Iraq, looks over points made during a small group discussion at a Chaplain’s Conference, Aug. 10. The three-day conference gathered chaplains and their assistants from across Iraq to discuss suicide prevention and life affirmation, as well as tactics to reach out to service members.CAMP VICTORY, Iraq — Soldier suicide is one of the Army’s top concerns as its troops continue to endure the stresses of multiple deployments in addition to the daily challenges of life. 

From the new Shoulder to Shoulder: “I Will Never Quit on Life” suicide prevention video, to the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, the Army is focusing on programs to build resiliency and erase the stigmas associated with mental health issues that still prevent some from seeking help. 

In Iraq, a group of 35 chaplains and chaplain’s assistants recently met for a three-day conference to discuss life affirmation, suicide prevention and methods to reach out to those at the greatest risk of committing suicide. 

As National Suicide Prevention Month approaches in September, chaplains are looking at ways in which they have been successful in reaching out to service members in need of help, and discussing new and innovative methods they can implement and continue to help Soldiers affirm life and build their resiliency. 

“We want to prevent suicide, but we need to do more than just tell people to not kill themselves,” said Deputy Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Keith Goode, U.S. Forces-Iraq. “We need to give them something to live for; we need to affirm life. 

“To do that effectively, we learn the methods our colleagues are using successfully and (we are) learning how to better reach out to those who are hurting,” he said. 

The chaplains looked through current research, discussed plans and traded ideas to reach service members who are hurting, said Chaplain (Maj.) Robert Crowley, USF-I operations. 

Family connectedness, resiliency and narcissism were three of the topics covered during the conference. The group examined these positive and negative factors to determine how they affect a service member’s deployment. 

“We were able to discuss a lot of different things in the small groups and listen to the chaplains’ and their assistants’ different perspectives, their ways of dealing with depressed or isolated service members, or even ideas about different ways to be available and relate to (Soldiers),” said Spc. Claudine Barker, chaplain’s assistant, Company A, 28th Combat Support Hospital. 

The conference and the sharing of ideas between colleagues was recently encouraged by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, in a health promotion risk reduction report for 2010. 

“The document encourages leadership from the Army to not just look at suicide prevention for the entire Army, but to look at the individual service member,” said Chaplain (Col.) Mike Lembke, USF-I.

The report also recommended that personnel who work to keep service members physically, mentally, spiritually and socially healthy begin meeting to look at CSF from different angles and share information, Lembke said. 

Many issues regarding resiliency and CSF were addressed, said Chaplain (Maj.) Darin Neilson, family life chaplain. 

One area was relationships. If a service member has healthy relationship with his or her family back home or friends during deployment, they are less likely to commit suicide. 

“We, as chaplains, try to provide service members someone to go to when things go south,” he said. “By sharing ideas about how we can connect with deployed personnel and acting on those ideas, Soldiers know we are available to talk to at any hour.” 

Neilson said the bottom line is making chaplains available to service members to provide support and someone willing to listen to their problems. 

“People don’t necessarily want to hear the answers. They just need somebody to listen, and that’s what we do,” Barker said. “We walk alongside them.”


View Shoulder to Shoulder: “I Will Never Quit on Life” at


Category: Deployed Forces, News, Observances

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