By Guy Caley
The large purple and teal ribbons displayed on Fort Leonard Wood in September for Suicide Prevention Month are visible reminders of our military community’s commitment to reduce the terrible toll of suicide. But it is not just our service members who need that commitment. The civilian members of our community – military family members, retirees and civilian employees – also need to know help is out there.
This year, the observance takes on special significance. Even before COVID-19 changed everyone’s lives, the nation had been experiencing an uptick in suicides. Preliminary data suggests that the additional stressors and isolation brought on by the pandemic – and our efforts to slow its spread – have further increased the number of suicides and suicide attempts.
Therefore, this year in particular, we all need to redouble our efforts toward both self-care and attentiveness to the struggles others are facing. Don’t neglect needs until they become a crisis. Seek out relaxation and spiritual growth and healing. If overwhelmed, reach out to the resources available, many of which are there for service members and civilians.
One of these is the Employee Assistance Program, offering someone to talk to confidentially and resources to find the right long-term help people need.
If others around seem to be struggling, be quick to reach out and show compassion. Ask how they are doing. Ask what they are doing to deal with stress. If concerns about them grow, ask directly about the risk of suicide. If concerns aren’t alleviated after talking to them, reach out to a resource for help. Referrals to the EAP can be done informally by anyone. Supervisors can contact the EAP for a formal referral if they have concerns about an employee. EAP can be reached by calling 573.596.7199 or 0938.
Soldiers, families and civilian employees in need of crisis assistance can contact their unit chaplain, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital Behavioral Health or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained consultants are available 24/7 at 800.273.8255, or by visiting their website at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
The Military Crisis Line offers free and confidential support to service members in crisis or anyone who knows a service member who is. The service is staffed by caring, qualified responders from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Support is offered through the crisis line, online chat and text-messaging services for all service members (active duty, National Guard and Reserve) and veterans 24/7 by visiting http://www.militarycrisisline.net; online chat at http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ChatTermsOfService.aspx; sending a text to 838255; or calling 800.273.8255 ext. 1.
Services are available even if members are not registered with the VA or enrolled in VA health care.
The Army’s comprehensive list of resiliency resources and Suicide Prevention Program information is located at readyandresilient.army.mil.
(Editor’s note: Caley is the Fort Leonard Wood Employee Assistance Program coordinator.)