Trust, hope, all keys to stopping suicide

| October 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

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 — Imagine a wooden stool as our suicide prevention program.

This stool will need solid legs to support it, as each leg relates to the other, and the stool is useless without its parts.

Our stool’s legs are trust, anti-stigma and hope.

Trust. The product of the bond that is not betrayed by another is called trust.

Trust is a bedrock of any relationship, including the relationship be tween the Army and its Soldiers. Without trust, fear can lead to breakdowns, like suicide.

Soldiers must trust their leaders and peers to treat them with dignity and respect. Beating back the barriers to talking about suicide starts dialog and builds trust.

Anti-stigma. A stigma-free environment is key in the Army’s suicide prevention campaign. To eradicate stigma, the phrase “committed suicide” needs to be replaced by “died by suicide.” This change is designed to remove the shaming attitudes, language and policies embedded in our culture.

Hope. Instilling hope completes our stool. Suicide is a choice made by human beings who are in despair and can no longer bear the pain of existence. They can no longer find a hopeful solution for an interminable situation. They have lost hope.

One way to instill hope is to remember the acronym “ACE,” which stands for “Ask, Care, Escort.”

•Ask battle buddies if they have suicidal thoughts.

•Care for battle buddies by understanding that they may be in pain.

•Escort battle buddies immediately to your chain of command, chaplain or behavioral health professional.

ACE is a peer-based suicide intervention program, founded on the assumption that Soldiers know each other best and understand and relate to common experiences.

ACE, along with our wooden stool, is designed to instill hope in Soldiers.

Trust needs to be built, stigma defeated and empathy extended to reinforce our Soldiers’ innate dignity and respect.

This empathy might just instill the connection and hope a suicidal person needs.

Warning Signs

Distress can lead to the development of unhealthy behaviors.

People closest to a Soldier (fellow Soldiers, family, friends) are in the best position to recognize changes due to distress and to provide support.

Look for these signs:

•Comments that suggest thoughts or plans of suicide.

•Rehearsal of suicidal acts.

•Giving away possessions.

•Obsession with death, dying and the like.

•Uncharacteristic behaviors, such as reckless driving, excessive drinking or stealing.

•Significant change in performance.

•Appearing overwhelmed by recent stressor(s).

•Depressed mood or hopelessness.

•Withdrawal from social activities.

(Editor’s note: Information was extracted from “A Leader’s Guide to Suicide Prevention,” a brochure created by the U.S. Army Public Health Command. Download this brochure and other free suicide prevention materials at and click on “Health Information Products e-catalog, ”or call (800) 222-9698.)

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Category: Leadership, News

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