Suicide should be addressed with dignity, respect

| September 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

Stigma prevents serious discussion that seeks solutions to problems

Wayne Hankammer
Suicide Prevention Program Manager, U.S. Army-Pacific

The acronymn "ACE" is used to prevent a suicide: Ask, Care, Escort someone in need of help to a professional to prevent loss of life.

The acronymn “ACE” is used to prevent a suicide: Ask, Care, Escort someone in need of help to a professional to prevent loss of life.

FORT SHAFTER — After a decade of battle, the Army faces the threat of suicide, and like any battle, the Army trains to defeat threats.

That’s what we do: Gear up and get into the fight.

We identify targets and then engage with the best tactics we have to prevail. This threat is no different. We shall put every effort forward in the arena of suicide prevention.

The Secretary of Defense has said suicide “is a human problem.” Therefore, we need human solutions, and that means putting humanity into the equation.

As a human problem, suicide affects us all, and it’s going to take all of us to get involved as a culture. We need caring and empathetic understanding to instill hope as empathy provides human connection when empathy is needed most.

Stigma attaches shame and dishonor to a forbidden act. Stigma regarding suicide is embedded within our culture as human beings.

Eliminating stigma isn’t going to be easy. We have centuries of history regarding suicide as “taboo” and, therefore, outside the social norm by shunning those who choose suicide.

Suicide, meaning self-murder, has for centuries implied a crime has been committed. However, suicide isn’t a crime; it’s a human tragedy needing human solutions to get to the real issues behind the death.

While stigma is often a barrier to care, we find our Army culture reflects our society. We use words that inadvertently perpetuate stigma. For example, “committed suicide” was recently a caption on the cover of a national magazine with a Soldier playing taps. Combining these two words reduces a human life to one act, simultaneously judging the act as shameful, as if a crime has been committed.

However, using “died by” suicide or “completed” suicide confers accuracy without shame. Using better words, thoughtful words, will reflect respect for and dignity of human life. There is neither success nor crime in death by suicide.

Seeking solutions is normal, so considering suicide as an option for interminable pain is part of that process. However, suicidal behavior signals danger. If we have an open culture, then it’s also OK to tell your battle buddy, spouse, health provider or friend: “I just had a serious thought about suicide. Can we talk?”

When the discussion about suicide becomes open, respectful and familiar, stigma will have no power.

There is hope, but it’s going to take our culture to make it happen.

Armywide Suicide “Stand Down”

Gen. Lloyd Austin III, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, has ordered an Armywide suicide prevention “stand down,” Sept. 27, as part of the Army’s Suicide Prevention Month.

U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii personnel must attend one of four suicide prevention stand down sessions, Sept. 27, at Sgt. Smith Theater, Schofield Barracks. Adult family members are welcome.
•8-9:30 a.m.
•10-11:30 a.m.
•1-2:30 p.m.
•3-4:30 p.m.

This training satisfies annual Suicide Prevention requirements for all. Call (808) 655-9105 for more details.

Suicide Prevention Resources

Government agenicies and national organizations offer a variety of suicide prevention tools and resources:
•National Suicide Prevention Hotline, (800) 273-TALK (8255).

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Category: Leadership, News, Training

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