USARPAC takes positive approach to suicide prevention

| May 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

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Wayne Hankammer
Suicide Prevention Program Manager
U.S. Army-Pacific
FORT SHAFTER — The U.S. Army-Pacific’s new health promotion and suicide prevention policy represents a strategic shift toward building individual protective factors in Soldiers and family members.
USARPAC’s focus is shifting to a caring and positive command climate, rather than the negative tone that is normally associated with suicide
prevention.
The new policy stresses getting way ahead of crisis by using Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2) skills, amongst other well-being programs. USARPAC is building psychological armor to help its family bounce back from crisis.
“We are not going to wait for a suicide crisis to develop to get our attention. … Instead, we are marching in the other direction to prevent a crisis from reaching a lethal level,” said Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander, USARPAC.
Traditionally, suicide prevention is about avoiding the act of suicide by looking for risk factors and acting on those or other warning signs. The command is now proactively working toward developing protective factors fostered by resiliency skills way before risk factors have a chance to develop. Waiting for risk factors to surface is not working, because waiting is a reactive device and largely relies on detection, assessment of risk and intervention to get help.
Recent research demonstrates how people have more power to influence the development of protective factors rather than mitigate risk factors. Like depression or isolation, risk factors are easy to generalize to suicide risk. However, in a manner of speaking, these risk factors are only a small part of the battlefield. By focusing on just risk factors, an opportunity to exploit building protective factors is missed.
The new policy achieves this opportunity by focusing on building protective factors that are fostered in two ways: One way is through resiliency training, the other way through unit policies to foster social support. Limiting transitions within units (company and above) will allow Soldiers to build meaningful connections essential to an effective level of social support.
Soldiers can expect to see a more positive approach to building caring and well-being across the command. It is a shift away from the generally negative tones of a suicide prevention campaign.
CSF2 training is essential in the policy to help prevent Soldiers or family members from developing some risk factors, which are known to increase suicide risk. The training is integrated as part of the arsenal teamed with “Ask Care Escort-Suicide Intervention” (ACE-SI) as a combined strategy to improve the lives of our people.
USARPAC is proactive to build resilient Soldiers and liken this to having psychological body armor. Meanwhile, it still has its goal-line defense of ACE and ACE-SI, should risk factors
develop.
In short, USARPAC is trying to mitigate risk factors from ever developing. While all suicides may not be stopped, this approach is seen as more effective since people have more power to avert risk factors from developing than to mitigate risk once developed.
Another policy focus area is confronting the stigma that is often associated with suicide. This stigma has been around a very long time and represents a real barrier to care. It impedes building a caring attitude for all Soldiers, family members and civilians. The policy takes a hard look at how stigma is embedded and how everyone can help reduce the negative effects of it to create a caring environment.
USARPAC wants everyone to be mindful of the words they use to describe a suicide event or feeling. There is a standard operating procedure template available to implement the policy at the company/battery levels.
This new approach doesn’t abandon ACE; rather, it is building positive factors.
“Instead,” said Brooks, “we are marching in the other direction to prevent a crisis from reaching a lethal level.”

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