…and they don’t know how to fix it.
This is a serious problem and the Army is desperate to try and stop it. Don’t believe me, look at the graphic below.
If that graphic doesn’t tell the story then just ask about anyone in the Army or that has been in the Army for the last 10 years and I am sure you will find they know someone who has taken their own life or has tried to. I personally have had fellow soldiers take their own lives and have had several friends who have thought about it seriously or tried to.
There is no silver bullet, magic phrase or flashy PowerPoint that will stop the growing suicide trend. It comes down to two simple things to lower the number of suicides in the Army, if not completely stop it. Yes I am about to tell you the secret to fixing this problem and what is worse the Army has both of these things within their control.
We need real Sergeants and real leaders, not a plastic dog tag with the Army Values written on them.
That is a quote from a great blog post on SofRep.com and the author sees what I do.
The secret to stop suicide is the SOLDIER and the LEADER. Yes the SOLDIER and the LEADER. Not a cool acronym like ACE or a piece of plastic to hang on your dog tags or put in your helmet or a Powerpoint. Those are all tools to educate the SOLDIER and the LEADER, who are truly where the power lies to stop this terrible trend.
Peer to Peer counseling, SOLDIERS looking after each other and are willing to listen, reach out and step up and LEADERS who take this problem seriously and set the example for all of their soldiers to follow. If you haven’t heard of the Spartan Pledge then check out this video by Boone Cutler from the Gallant Few.
The individual SOLDIER is the first line of defense to stop a fellow SOLDIER from committing suicide. That is what the video is trying to accomplish. Put your pride aside, don’t act like you are too tough to sit down with your buddy and talk about this and make a pledge to each other not to take your own life. It is amazing that two army buddies will sit around and talk about their sexual conquests over a weekend, plan out a kegger or bullshit each other about what bad-asses they were back in High School but they can’t look at each other and say;
“I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first.
My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family.”
The training, pieces of plastic and Power-points are there to educate SOLDIERS on how to deal with it, help their buddy and get them to seek help and stop any attempt to take their own life. Those things are there to empower the SOLDIER and the LEADER not to relieve them of any responsibility. I think many view this mandatory training as just that. I believe many in the Army feel that “hey we attended the training, so what do I need to do?”. They see the training as a distraction and as a block-checker to say everyone is trained not to kill themselves.
That is where many SOLDIERS and LEADERS miss it. The training doesn’t mean squat without SOLDIERS and LEADERS to execute on it. You can’t train a SOLDIER to not kill themselves, you train others to stop it.
So yes it comes down to the SOLDIER to be the first line of defense and they depend on the LEADER to stress the importance of protecting each other and to take suicide prevention seriously and not as another “mandatory training” event.
I had my first experience with a friend who wanted to commit suicide in elementary school. I may have forgotten a lot in my life but that moment is burned into my memory. I will never forget a classmate who came to me to talk about wanting to kill himself. I didn’t have any training or cool acronyms, I had values and morals that knew he should not do this and that I had to talk him out of it. I have had others in my life kill themselves, try to kill themselves, or seriously contemplate it. Some of those I am reffering to read this blog and will know who they are.
When I have had the chance to intervene, I did and every time I felt over-whelmed and hoped that I said and did the right thing. Personally I pray to God to always put the right words in my mouth and to allow them to penetrate someone’s heart to stop them from doing the ultimate selfish act. Then every time I talk to them or see them after that incident I smile inside to know that they are still here and I thank God for allowing me the chance to intervene.
Stopping someone from suicide should be taken as serious as stopping the bleeding and saving the life of your buddy on the battlefield. The SOLDIER needs to realize that, and the LEADER better realize that. If they don’t then they should take off the uniform and walk away, cause I don’t want an Army of soldiers who wouldn’t care for and save the life of their fellow soldier.
I have written a related blog post over at youserved.com. Check it out at http://www.vamortgagecenter.com/blog/2012/10/03/armys-suicide-stand-down/