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DVIDS – News – Suicide prevention raises awareness Madigan


The numbers shock and offend the senses – roughly one active duty serviceman ends his life every day; add the reserve and national guard components and the number rises to an average of 1.5 per day. Madigan Army Medical Center’s Department of Behavioral Health hosted a National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month event on Sept. 22 to raise awareness in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., community and honor those who have passed away.

When 1st Lt. Victoria Bodner first took on the task of hosting a celebration for the month alongside fellow social work intern 1st Lt. Taylor Ryan, she expected a fairly low-key event. The march they suggested, after seeing the success of similar events, quickly turned into a command level activity that is gaining attention across JBLM.

“We wanted to do the walk, one – to raise awareness, and, two – to have a place to honor the memory of people we’ve lost in the past to suicide,” Bodner said. “He got, I feel, more attention than I thought. Really shows that people are interested, people care, and people are trying to fight prevention.

At the event, CH (Capt.) Antoinette Stewart offered an open-minded embrace and universal participation in her invocation.

Invoking her creator, she appealed: “May we be carried away by compassion, for compassion is strength. May our ears be empathetic, our eyes be attentive, and our voices be heard. And may we be the model of what availability looks like.

Acknowledging the statistics of active duty and veterans impacted by suicide, Bodner acknowledged the long-standing stigma within the military surrounding mental health treatment. She noted that while it seems to be improving, stigma still prevents people from seeking help.

She appreciates the hashtag chosen this year “not just September”, which means that the effort to reduce suicide as much as possible is constant.

“Our work is not done,” she said. “It’s going to take a daily fight and daily effort after September.”

Commanding Sgt. Maj. Albert Harris, Madigan’s Senior Enlisted Advisor, added his perspective on both the reluctance to talk about this topic and what he sees as necessary to address it.

“It’s a difficult subject to talk about; but, we must not remain silent. I am an advocate for leaders to know their soldiers,” he said. “Take care of each other up, down and to the sides. I mean, if you are a subordinate, take care of your bosses as well as we expect our bosses to take care of our subordinates. It has to be a 365, so please go ahead, we have to get to know each other on a daily basis.

Col. Jonathan Craig Taylor, Madigan’s commanding officer and director of the Puget Sound Military Health System Market, echoed the call from his command sergeant major.

“I do think though, as I think about the way forward, how critical it is for us to connect and stay connected. And so I appreciate the words that were shared by Chaplain Stewart on the how it starts,” he said. “How it starts is that moment when we’re just, we pause, maybe we’re ready to be vulnerable, or we’re ready to share a bit of vulnerability, or just being present and listening. Taking the time to listen and share, I think is really, really valuable.

Taylor shared something of a personal mantra he shares weekly when speaking at Newcomer Orientation – a quote from the German poet, playwright, philosopher and Renaissance man of the mid-1700s to early 1900s. 1800s, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the deciding factor. It’s my personal approach that sets the mood. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyful. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or please, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is aggravated or defused, and a person is humanized or dehumanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they should be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming. – by Goethe

Taylor shared his thoughts on that quote before the chaplain led the crowd into a moment of silence before a walk around the pond.

“It’s almost like a superpower that you have every day in every encounter. You have this ability to simply change the course of someone’s day. It really is sometimes the very essence of taking care of each other. It’s just about taking this moment, thinking about how, in every interaction, moment to moment, we can make a difference,” Taylor said.

Ryan directed attendees, many of whom work in behavioral health or have personally experienced loss from suicide, to the table and staff ready to share resources.

The Office of Defense Suicide Prevention set out to improve the primary key to the response – connection. With the slogan “connect to protect”, the office’s website www.dspo.mil offers a wealth of resources to fight suicide well beyond September.

These two slogans – connect to protect and not just September – together indicate the type of commitment that Bodner recommends for those looking to help a family member, friend or fellow soldier who seems to need help.

Road signs

First, how do you know if someone you care about needs help?

One of the helpful pieces of information shared during the exhibit that the two interns held for a number of lunchtime sessions – the last being Friday, September 30 – is a list of warning signs.

Some signs are more obvious, such as talking about wanting to die or committing suicide. Others, however, such as sleeping too little or too much or being anxious or restless, can accompany a variety of problems that do not necessarily indicate suicidal intent.

To take part

To help someone in need, Bodner suggested following the ACE guideline – Ask, Care, Escort.

“Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions, to have that tough conversation with that person,” she said. “Ask – ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’ Care – Provide care to that person, then escort them – Take them to the emergency services if necessary But it really starts with the first one, which is to ask and not be afraid.

Find resources

Madigan’s Behavioral Health Department, of which Bodner, Ryan and the 26-month social work internship program are a part, designed the JBLM Resource Finder – a reference that quickly connects to resources specific to an individual’s needs.

Problems with substances? Anger? Finance? Go to https://madigan.tricare.mil/counseling to find local resources and these other topics. Log in from any internet-connected device. Also look for the QR code on the graphics included here to be redirected to the site.

Also, to make it easier to access help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is now the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline with a new fast-track access number – 988. That’s it, only these three numbers can be used to call or text to be connected to a crisis specialist. After connecting, pressing 1 then directs the caller to someone with military knowledge.

This line also has a website that is full of information. Visit 988lifeline.org to find the warning signs mentioned above, risk factors, and an abundance of resources.

Mental or behavioral health care providers are an important part of the equation in getting people the help they need. However, they are not alone in the fight against suicide.

Available resources range from counselors to chaplains to community groups. Financial planners, dietitians, and parenting coaches can all provide the relief that someone at risk of suicide might need; they are all on the JBLM Resource Finder and ready to help.

Besides, there’s you.

“We need the public’s help to identify those at risk and get them the help they need. So everyone can help prevent suicide,” Bodner said.

Date taken: 23.09.2022
Date posted: 23.09.2022 20:24
Story ID: 430023
Location: TACOMA, WA, United States

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