September is Suicide Prevention Month.
In reality, September is just like the other 11 months of the year, during which time we work hard to stay resilient. But it’s important for us to pause and use this designated month to remind ourselves and each other that suicide prevention only works if we are committed to the health, safety and well-being of our service members, civilian employees and our families.
It’s important to review activities that help keep each of us resilient and take steps to make sure suicide prevention has a place in what we do every day.
Our garrison leadership, Col. Edward Rothstein, John Moeller and I, are committed to keeping the Fort Meade community resilient. We want you to know that we care about each of you and we stand ready to help those who need to heal invisible wounds with dignity and respect.
It’s important that we talk about suicide prevention and emphasize the Army’s commitment to raise awareness and understanding of the effort that is required to successfully eliminate suicides within the military family and find ways to encourage individuals who need help to use the support services that are available to assist our total well-being and resiliency.
As part of the effort, the Army recently released a new suicide prevention awareness video aimed primarily at junior leadership and first-line supervisors to let them know their responsibility to be the first to identify and assist those in need.
The video emphasizes that those of us in leadership positions (whether it’s here at Fort Meade or wherever you serve or work) need to understand the impact we can have in preventing suicides within our ranks. This includes the impact we have on family members.
It’s part of your role as a leader to connect, assist and make sure those around you know there are resources available to help avoid a needless loss of life.
If you haven’t already done so, use this month to review resources that are available to help you assist someone who may be in crisis.
Suicide can be prevented. While some suicides occur without any outward warning, most people who are suicidal do give warnings. Prevent the threat of suicides of our service members and other loved ones by learning to recognize the signs of someone at risk, taking those signs seriously and knowing how to respond to them.
The emotional crises that usually precede a suicide are often recognizable and treatable. Although most depressed people are not suicidal, most suicidal people are depressed.
Serious depression can be manifested in obvious sadness, but often it is expressed as a loss of pleasure or withdrawal from activities that had been enjoyable. We all can help prevent suicide through early recognition and find ways to assist those who need treatment of depression and other behavioral health challenges.
Our goal should be to not let service members or a family struggle alone. We also can’t expect behavioral health specialists or chaplains to know everyone who may be contemplating suicide.
As leaders, we can all make a big difference in the lives of someone needing help. Remember, early intervention can help stop problems from escalating and it increases the chance for a positive outcome.
Preventing suicides requires courage and, at times, personal sacrifice as the intervention process may require a lot of time. We can’t afford to lose one life to suicide. Together, I know we can make a difference.
This Fort Meade Live blog was written by Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Smith, Fort Meade Garrison command sergeant major.