WASHINGTON — A Soldier who is at-risk for suicide and seeks help is showing great strength, said the director of the Army Suicide Prevention Program.
With September as National Suicide Prevention Month, the Army is highlighting efforts to prevent suicide, while underscoring that prevention is a 24/7, year-round campaign.
Suicide in the Army is a tragedy that affects everyone, said Gabriele Tyler, the director of the Army Suicide Prevention Program.
It is the responsibility of all members to take steps to prevent it, she said.
Building resilience in Soldiers and creating strong relationships from the top down are important aspects in creating safe environments, said Tyler.
“Resilience and seeking assistance is a sign of strength, and supporting those in need of help is an Army value,” she said.
With strong relationships, members are more able to pick up on warning signs in others or seek help for themselves, she said.
“Suicides are preventable. Any loss suffered within the Army team is tragic, and it affects readiness,” she said. “Every member of the Army community has a role in creating a climate and environment of trust and mutual respect.”
The Army Suicide Prevention Program is part of the Army’s Ready and Resilient Campaign, which integrates and synchronizes key Army programs to build resiliency and prevent incidents of suicide, sexual harassment, sexual assault and substance abuse, while reducing any stigma associated with seeking help.
“Resilience is key, and relationships are the gateway to ensuring the required help is received,” Tyler said. “The more that we know about each other, the better we are equipped to handle a colleague’s or a friend’s or a battle buddy’s call for help.”
Tyler said National Suicide Prevention Month is a good time for all Soldiers to assess the stresses in their lives, such as financial or other personal problems, and get help to address those issues and mitigate the risk of suicide.
The Army has said trends show that most of its suicides are the result of financial or relationship issues, often exacerbated by drug and alcohol use.
National Suicide Prevention Month is also an opportunity for leaders to conduct training and team-building exercises to promote wellness and mental and physical fitness, said Tyler
Leaders can also use this time, she said, to make sure they and their entire command are familiar with all the support networks and resources available.
The Army is addressing the culture in which at-risk people may not want to seek help, for fear, in their minds, of looking weak.
“The Army recognizes that we focus on being tough and self-reliant, and this can create a barrier to help-seeking behavior,” Tyler said.
“Institutional changes can happen immediately, but cultural changes take a little longer to materialize because there are many factors that shape our perceptions, so it’s an ongoing process,” she said.
If someone is suicidal, Tyler said, that person should know that help is available to them at any time of day, and they are urged to immediately seek help. If someone suspects a person is suicidal, it is important that the at-risk person not be left alone and that help is immediately sought.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255), is available anytime, 24 hours a day, all year. Callers can press 1 for the Military Crisis Line.