[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                     March 13, 2009

Course teaches about suicide prevention

By Rob Schuette, The Real McCoy Staff

Fort McCoy supported the Armyís suicide prevention program by presenting the interactive training video "Beyond the Front" to garrison personnel.

Photo: Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Brown talks about the new suicide video being used to help train Soldiers and federal civilian employees. (Photo by Rob Schuette)
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Brown talks about the new suicide video being used to help train Soldiers and federal civilian employees. (Photo by Rob Schuette)  

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Brown of the Fort McCoy Religious Support Office (RSO) said the sessions, which were held from Feb. 23-March 10, built on the information RSO personnel taught in the Suicide Awareness Courses.

"The Suicide Awareness Courses we taught used the ACE (ask, care and escort) program," Brown said. "The training helped military personnel identify the warning signs and what steps they could take if they became involved with someone contemplating suicide."

The "Beyond the Front" program uses the ACE program, but takes participants, including Department of the Army civilian employees, through two interactive scenarios involving potential suicide cases. Brown said participants are presented with multiple-choice decisions about what they should do at various points during the scenarios. If participants made bad choices, they were taken back in the cycle to make better choices, he said.

This training will be followed by the "Shoulder to Shoulder, No Soldier Stands Alone" video, beginning March 15.

Brown said the third phase of the required training will establish an annual training program.

Capt. Neil Hogie, one of the instructors from Fort McCoy Headquarters and Headquarters Company, said the training helps Soldiers and civilian employees recognize the warning signs of potentially suicidal personnel and helps them determine what aid to give or seek. The other instructors are Staff Sgt. Alexander Crocker and 1st Sgt. Steven Dryer of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, who have done the bulk of the training, Brown said.

"You need to know the signs of and be aware of potential suicidal behavior," Hogie said. "If people are showing suicidal behavior, you need to get them the help they need."

An outcome of the training is to build awareness of the signs of the risk of suicidal ideations, which are the capacity of an individual to formulate plans about suicide, and an understanding of the courage it takes to help that person get qualified help from a provider such as a chaplain, combat stress team, a local pastor, or a counselor.

Many of these situations can arise from deployments or during the readjustment period of redeployments, Hogie said. 

The interactive video "Beyond the Front" presented a scenario from each situation and allowed participants to make choices the personnel in the scenario might make. The participants could see the results of those choices and discuss what impact they would have on a person with suicidal ideations.

Itís not something, however, that happens only with or to deployed Soldiers, Hogie said. With the impending deployment of Soldiers from the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, personnel in the Fort McCoy community may be dealing with these issues firsthand.

"These personnel are from our front yards, (with units in) Onalaska, Prairie du Chien, Black River Falls, etc.," Hogie said. "We need to be aware of behaviors that may lead to potential suicidal ideations."

Personnel who are involved in multiple deployments may be subjected to changing family circumstances.

These families have made it this far with their servicemember in-theater and now the Soldier has returned home wanting to pick up where he/she left off. The redeploying Soldier has to adjust to many family dynamic changes, such as children moving into teenage years or spouses having taken on additional responsibilities, during their deployments, he said. This may change the dynamics of them reassimilating into their families.

Contrary to the beliefs of many people, personnel donít think about committing suicide as a way to end a life, he said.

They see it as a way to get out of a problem or to get out of a hurtful situation.

Brown said personnel have a number of opportunities to seek assistance at Fort McCoy. 

More information is available by calling the RSO at 608-388-3528. Military personnel also can call the Behavioral Health Office at 608-388-4679.

If the situation has reached a dangerous stage, personnel can call 911 and the information will be relayed to the appropriate officials in a timely manner, Hogie said.

Military personnel also can call toll-free at 877-877-3647 or visit the Web site http://www.MilitaryMentalHealth.org to take an anonymous, mental health or alcohol use self-assessment.

(See related story)

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