WASHINGTON – Suicide prevention help is available 24 hours a day, and that message was emphasized at the Army's Suicide Prevention Program health fair at the Pentagon.
"Soldiers, Army Civilians and Family Members have options," said Sherry Simmons-Coleman, senior program analyst for the Army's Suicide Prevention Program.
Those options include talking to a member of their unit, visiting the chaplain or behavior health professional on the installation, or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available 24-hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), she said.
Simmons-Coleman, who spoke at the health fair Sept. 12, said the Army wants its members to know that support and counseling are available to help reduce the stresses that put people at risk for suicide.
"It's about bouncing back from adversities, tragedies and any setbacks that life presents to you," she said. "It's (about) knowing that things will get better, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel." The Army has marked National Suicide Prevention Month, which is September, with the message that prevention is a 365-day effort.
The prevention efforts are part of the Army's Ready and Resilient Campaign that addresses the overall health – mental, physical and emotional – of Soldiers, Army Civilians and Family Members to create a stronger, more resilient force. Suicide is caused by multiple factors in many areas of a person's life, Simmons-Coleman said, and the Army is working to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help. "Just like with any illness, if you are sick, get help," she said.
Also on hand at the wellness fair were members of the Army Reserve to talk about resources available to address the unique stresses Reservists face.
"They are balancing a regular day job, if they are employed, with the demands and obligations of their military service," said Maj. Larry Ray, who works with the Employer Partnership Office at the Office of Chief Army Reserve. The Employer Partnership Office works to establish public and private partnerships to facilitate employment and training opportunities for veterans, reserve Soldiers and their Families, to increase readiness.
Ray said Soldiers who are under-employed or unemployed may feel stressed and overwhelmed in trying to support and care for their Family, putting them at risk for suicide. "By identifying issues with our Soldiers in the financial arena, we feel that we can play a critical role in the prevention of suicide and also improve our units' readiness," he said. "We do recognize those very specific reserve-component stressors and obstacles to maintaining that balance between Family, employer and military obligation," he said.
Maj. Rebekah Montgomery, a chaplain in the Army Reserve, said chaplains are always available to offer counseling support and crisis intervention for anyone in the Army Family.
"We serve all Soldiers, all Family Members, regardless of their faith. Our responsibility is to perform or provide, so if we can't provide the direct service, it is our responsibility to make sure we get someone who does," she said.
In addition to calling the crisis line or taking in person to someone, she noted that Soldiers and Family Members can use a new app, available on iTunes and on the Android system, called "Battle Buddy."
The app, said Montgomery, will take a person through crisis steps, provide information and allow the user to call the resource directly from the app.
At Fort Drum
If you or someone you know has attempted suicide and there is a life-threatening emergency, call 911. For other urgent behavioral health concerns, specialists are available for triage appointments from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Monday through Friday at the Behavioral Health Department, Bldg. P-36, Wilcox Clinic.
After clinic closure times, persons with urgent behavioral health concerns should contact Samaritan Medical Center at 785-4516 or Mobile Crisis Services of North Country Transitional Living Services at 782-2327. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is always available at 1-800-273-TALK.
Note: Fort Drum has many resources available to aid those who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts. The chain of command should be used as a resource for making sure Soldiers can get the help they need. Chaplains offer resources for Soldiers and their Families. They also offer suicide awareness training at the unit level. Unit ministry teams provide pastoral care in a confidential setting.
Lisa A. Ferdinando, Army News Service