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Posts Tagged ‘hotline’

Chaplains are pretty busy during Annual Training season in the National Guard.  Tuesday I gave another suicide prevention class.  It’s a requirement that Soldiers get the presentation at least once a year.  The training focuses on the magnitude of the problem, how common issues can drive anyone to the point of despair, and that everyone can watch out for your battle buddy.

While many try to pin the Army suicide issue on multiple deployments, the majority of issues that drive people to suicide are common issues:  failed relationships, financial difficulty, and legal woes.  These are typical factors that we see in the civilian population, at schools, in factories, and even in the church.  PTSD is a factor in military suicide, but it is not the top issue that Time magazine or other media outlets want you to believe.

The fundamental issue to remember is that everyone can save a life.  You probably survived a breakup, be it in high school, college, or at work.  You probably understand what it is like to bounce a check or have a tough time making your paycheck last the entire month.  We are all in the same boat.  We all have the life experience necessary to help people at risk of suicide.

Remember and apply ACE: Ask, Care, Escort.

If you believe that someone is at risk of suicide, ask him/her about the problem.  Find out what is going on in the person’s life.  Directly ask if he/she is thinking about suicide.  Care by listening to the issue.  Find out what is causing the pain and suffering.  Why is the Soldier upset?  Finally, escort the Soldier to a resource.  That can be a chaplain, a medic, a counselor, an NCO, a friend, or a family member.

Don’t leave the person alone.  Make sure that he or she gets help.  It is okay to call a suicide hotline or wake up a supervisor, just don’t ignore the warning signs.

You don’t have to be a mental health counselor to apply ACE.  You don’t have to be an expert.  But you can practice these basic steps in suicide first aid.  Do your part to reduce suicide and help your friends.

If you need immediate assistance these suicide hot lines are always available:

Military One Source – 1.877.995.5247 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

 

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The Joint Chiefs of Staff have recently outlined new policies to deter sexual assaults in the armed forces.

One of the major changes will happen at basic training for new recruits in every service branch.  New recruits will receive training on sexual assault policies within their first two weeks on active duty.  Making sure that recruits are educated on right conduct and appropriate behavior will go a long way in the force.  This prevention and education effort should be viewed as an important step in reducing sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military.

Additional policy changes include ensuring that sexual assault cases are handled by officers at the Colonel or O-6 level, and forming a new Special Victims Units across each service branch in order to better investigate assaults and bring more perpetrators to justice.  Cases will no longer be dropped by low-level commanders who can prevent investigations from moving forward with flimsy excuses.  Cases will instead move past the local unit level and be pushed up the chain of command for investigation by senior officers.

While these changes are new and still being fine tuned for implementation, I hope that advocacy efforts will also be a part of the equation.  All of the services need to provide high levels of support through unit victim advocates, sexual assault response coordinators, medical services, legal representation, and counseling.

Veterans and service members can make confidential reports to a chaplain, healthcare provider, sexual assault response coordinator, or victim advocate.  If you need help or have questions you can call 877-995-5247 or click www.safehelpline.org for additional resources.

 

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The headline was small and muted this month, but the Army reported 278 suicides for 2011.  That figure represents Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve components.  While that number may not immediately seem like good news, it is nearly a ten percent drop from 2010.  It is also the first time that number has declined in four years.

I understand why no one wanted to herald the news, but this should still be seen as a victory.  We are making an incredible difference in the lives of people.  Suicide prevention training has taken hold in the force and continues to grow.  Soldiers and families understand that it is okay to talk about deployment issues and concerns.  Stigma and fear continues to decline.  Counselors, medics, chaplains and battle buddies at every level are teaching service members how to address suicidal thoughts.  That being said, there is still more work to be done.

Broken relationships are still the number one reason that Soldiers commit suicide.  It is important that first line leaders sit down with service members at the first hint of marital conflict.  Make time to listen and discover how your Soldiers are dealing with the hardships of life.

Practice ACE:  Ask, Care, Escort.  Ask people how they are doing.  Care about their situation through listening.  Escort people to a community resource when they need help.

Military One Source is available 24/7.  You can call and immediately speak with a counselor or ask for a referral.  The operator will give you several local counseling options and assist you in making an appointment.  Service members can receive 12 free counseling sessions each year.  Military One Source can be reached at 1.800.342.9647.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to help those contemplating suicide.  You can call 1.800.273.TALK (8255) and be connected to a counselor.  Once you are on the lifeline, a person can decide to speak with a veteran or a civilian.

Army suicides are starting to decline.  Our efforts are bearing fruit in multiple arenas.  One year will may not establish a pattern, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

 

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Veterans have unique issues that can easily overwhelm family and friends.  We often avoid sharing stories to shield our loved ones from ugly events that happened down range.  Sometimes we fear sharing our experiences because we need to appear strong and reliable.  Other times we just want to bottle up our emotions or forget bad memories from a deployment.

Great healing can take place when we share our stories with the right person.  The specific battlefield, combat zone, or country doesn’t really matter.  Finding the right person who will understand you and your situation does matter.  It can make the difference between seeking help or just marking time.  Veterans can now find that reliable battle buddy who also walked in your combat boots.

Vets 4 Warriors is a recently created peer support hotline.  It allows veterans to connect with fellow veterans, no matter where you may live.  Every single peer counselor is a veteran.  The beauty in this approach is allowing Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines to connect and find understanding through each other.  The hotline is available 24 hours a day, toll free, and confidential.  Community resources vary across the nation, but this program is worth sharing.

You or a veteran you know can contact Vets 4 Warriors at 1-855-VET-TALK (1-855-838-8255) or by viewing http://www.vets4warriors.com.

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