No matter the rank, age or gender of a person, suicide affects everyone.
Col. Gregory Stokes, III Corps resiliency director, said the prevention of suicide begins with you, because in the end, everyone needs to step up to prevent suicide.
“Everybody plays a part in this,” Stokes said. “If you think you don’t play a part in this – you play a part in this.”
Stokes said, from the Army’s perspective, they expect Soldiers to take care of Soldiers and family members. They encourage them to have candid conversations to discover areas of issues or concerns and seek assistance before a small problem becomes a big problem.
Reasons people come to the point where they determine suicide is the only way out, varies from person to person. Stokes said the large spectrum of underlying issues usually fall under three major issues – little things that build up, tragic events or depression.
Little things that build up over time include things like relationship or financial issues. These issues can be helped before they escalate.
“If you see a family having financial problems, that’s an issue and you can get them help,” Stokes said.
Tragic events include things that occur suddenly and push them over the edge, such as the death of a child, spouse or someone close. Stokes said, that is the time to show people love.
“You’ve gotta recognize that when a life tragedy happens, that’s the time to be close to somebody. A lot of time they’re not gonna want it, they’re not gonna want to talk,” Stokes said. “It’s your presence. It’s your showing of concern that really carries them through an event.”
The third major issue is what Stokes believes to be the most difficult to recognize – depression. To prevent depression-caused suicide, he said people need to be intrusive. Find out what is going on in Soldiers lives and you may be surprised at what you discover.
“It could be the person who is always smiling – always burning this bright, bright light,” Stokes said.
While there’s a stigma around seeking help, Stokes said the Army hopes to create a culture of trust amongst its Soldiers, so they know there is someone there to help them. Soldiers do not always have to be “tough.” It is OK to ask for help and it is OK to talk to someone.
Stokes said help does not stop at Soldiers, help is for everyone. He said one issue people often overlook is how a permanent change of station move effects children. Moving from one place, where children may have a core group of friends, to another, where they don’t know anyone, is scary.
“When you move from one installation to another installation and changing schools, that’s a major event for a kid,” Stokes said.
III Corps is currently a participant of the Secretary of the Army’s suicide prevention pilot program at Fort Hood and Fort Bliss. Stokes said they are testing several suicide prevention programs to see how well they help people. He said the data they collect will help prevent, not only suicide rates, but also negative behavior.
For those considering suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Line is 1-800-273-8255 or via text at 838255.
For more information regarding National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, contact the III Corps Ready and Resilient office at 254-287-6851.