Army: suicide prevention help available 24/7

By Lisa A. Ferdinando, ARNEWS
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WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 13, 2013) -- Suicide prevention help is available 24 hours a day and that message was emphasized at this year's health fair at the Pentagon.

"Soldiers, Army civilians and family members have options," said Sherry Simmons-Coleman, senior program analyst for the Army's Suicide Prevention Program.

Those options include talking to a member of their unit, visiting the chaplain or behavior health professional on the installation, or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available 24-hours a day at 1-800-273- TALK (8255), she said.

Simmons-Coleman, who spoke at the Army Suicide Prevention Program health fair, Sept. 12, said the Army wants its members to know that support and counseling are available to help reduce the stresses that put people at risk for suicide.

"It's about bouncing back from adversities, tragedies, and any setbacks that life presents to you," she said. "It's knowing that that things will get better, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel."

The Army has marked National Suicide Prevention Month, which is September, and National Suicide Prevention Week, which runs Sept. 8-14, with the message that prevention is a 365-day effort.

The prevention efforts are part of the Army's Ready and Resilient Campaign that addresses the overall health -- mental, physical and emotional -- of Soldiers, Army civilians and family members to create a stronger, more resilient force.

Suicide is caused by multiple factors in many areas of a person's life, Simmons-Coleman said, and the Army is working to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help.

"Just like with any illness, if you are sick, get help," she said.

Also on hand at the wellness fair were members of the Army Reserve to talk about the resources available to address the unique stresses reservists face.

"They are balancing a regular day job, if they are employed, with the demands and obligations of their military service," said Maj. Larry Ray with the Employer Partnership Office at the Office of Chief Army Reserve.

The Employer Partnership Office works to establish public and private partnerships to facilitate employment and training opportunities for veterans, reserve Soldiers and their families, to increase readiness.

Ray said Soldiers who are under-employed or unemployed may feel stressed and overwhelmed in trying to support and care for their family, putting them at risk for suicide.

"By identifying issues with our Soldiers in the financial arena, we feel that we can play a critical role in the prevention of suicide and also improve our units' readiness," he said.

"We do recognize those very specific reserve-component stressors and obstacles to maintaining that balance between family, employer and military obligation," he said.

Maj. Rebekah Montgomery, a chaplain in the Army Reserve, said chaplains are always available to offer counseling support and crisis intervention for anyone in the Army family.

"We serve all Soldiers, all family members, regardless of their faith. Our responsibility is to perform or provide, so if we can't provide the direct service, it is our responsibility to make sure we get someone who does," she said.

In addition to calling the crisis line or taking in person to someone, she noted that Soldiers and family members can use a new app, available on iTunes and on the Android system, called "Battle Buddy."

The app, said Montgomery, will take a person through crisis steps, provide information and allow the user to call the resource directly from the app.