FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 21, 2017) -- The International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organization work together each year to observe World Suicide Prevention Day in September to serve as a reminder to take the time to check on and listen to loved ones or battle buddies. This action could make a difference in saving a person from suicide.
For 2017, the theme is ‘Take a minute, change a life.’ Every year across the globe, more than 800,000 people die by suicide and countless more make a suicide attempt. In the United States, the Veteran’s Administration Office of Suicide Prevention shows that veterans are estimated to be 1.4 times more likely to die by suicide than the general U.S. population.
In 2007, the suicide rate among Soldiers reached record highs. This led to the largest military-based mental health study ever undertaken through a partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health. The Army Study to Assess Risk and Resiliency in Service Members has sought to better understand the risks in hopes of one day saving lives. It has identified numerous risk factors, both universal and military-specific, that could raise a person’s risk for committing suicide.
Lt. Col. Jack Strong, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and Chief of Kenner Army Health Clinic’s Department of Behavioral Health, said he has seen so many of these risk factors play out in the lives of his patients and fellow Soldiers throughout his career.
“The military is all about multi-tasking and when relationship problems, occupational stress, substance abuse, moral dilemmas (trauma from war and/or home front), concussions, medical problems, and loss (relationships, loved ones, aspirations) get added, we have a natural dilemma of not thinking clearly,” said Strong.
People are often reluctant to intervene when they see someone struggling, even if they are concerned, because they are not sure what to say. But often, just simply asking ‘Are you OK?’ is enough to help the person begin sharing their story and get them to the help they need. Just taking the time to acknowledge that you care could make the difference between life and death.
If you believe someone you know is at high risk for suicide, it is vital to act immediately.
An easy to remember acronym for intervening is ACE:
(A) Ask the person if he/she is OK and if they are thinking about suicide;
(C) Care for that individual by expressing concern about him/her; and
(E) Escort them to a behavioral health clinic or hospital emergency room for evaluation and intervention.
“If you or a battle buddy are in despair, take a minute to step outside the situation to realize future aspirations of family, friends, careers, education, and life achievements. You may need to take a knee and bring yourself or your buddy out of the current conflict to seek help. Seeking help is a sign of strength,” said Strong.
Suicide prevention and intervention information can be provided through Kenner’s Department of Behavioral Health at (804) 734-9143 and through Military One Source at 1-800-342-9647.
For those seeking immediate help regarding suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-274-TALK (8255) or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
To learn more about the Army STARRS research and for further resources on suicide prevention, visit http://starrs-ls.org