Footsteps in Faith: One suicide is one too many

| September 2, 2011 | 0 Comments
Chaplain (Col. )Sherman Baker
Command Chaplain, Tripler Army Medical Center


The theme for this year’s Suicide Prevention Month is “Shoulder to Shoulder: Finding Strength and Hope Together.”

This year’s theme focuses on Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and family members all coming together to prevent someone from dying of suicide.

Suicide is still the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds.

Suicide prevention is everyone’s concern, and everyone should be mindful of how suicide and suicidal behavior affect individuals of all ages, genders and races across our country.

Risk factors include mental illness; substance abuse; previous suicide attempts; changes in relationship; feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness; medical, financial or legal problems; a recent loss of a loved one or unit member; access to lethal means; the stress of multiple deployments; changes in lifestyle; being passed over for promotion; and an increase or decrease in job responsibilities.

Suicide is an Armywide problem that can only be solved through the coordinated efforts of leaders, program managers and service providers.

The majority of people who commit suicide present a number of warning signs before taking their lives. Leaders, supervisors, co-workers and friends must invest time in training, especially the Ask, Care, Escort, or ACE, program. ACE provides awareness, knowledge and skills necessary to intervene with those at risk for suicide. Ask if someone is thinking of suicide; care enough to listen, offer hope and withhold judgment; take action and don’t leave the person alone. Escort him or her to assistance.

Chaplains and professional mental health providers are important assets in helping the Army to prevent suicides, but just as important are first-line supervisors who can make the most impact in preventing suicides in the Army family.

Leaders are responsible for their personnel and play a vital role in preventing and managing distress. They must know their people within their organization and be aware of the resources available to assist in dealing with the stressors of life.

The first-line supervisor has a role to connect with his or her people as a leader.

Leaders need to listen to what subordinates have to say — as attentive, reflective listening may reveal concerns that are causing distress.

Risk factors for suicide

A host of events can trigger suicidal actions, including some of the following:

•stress of multiple deployments;

•changes in relationship;

•a recent loss;

•feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness;

•medical, financial or legal problems; and

•being passed over for promotion.



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Category: Footsteps in Faith, News, Standing Columns

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