|By Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Commanding General,
Installation Management Command
When I talk with garrison professionals who work in suicide prevention,
they all have stories about the person who really made them realize the
importance of what they do. There was the Soldier who seemed to have it
all together, until one day he asked a course instructor, “When you’re
driving home, do you think about wrapping your car around a tree?” And
the Civilian supervisor with a stressful, high-visibility job, who did
not want to attend the mandatory suicide-prevention training because he
did not want to admit to himself his own thoughts about suicide. And the
Family member who felt desperately alone and overwhelmed during another
Most of the stories have happy endings — the people received the
help they needed. When they didn’t, it was a hard, hard loss. Losing
someone to suicide is doubly painful and confusing, as those left
behind not only deal with the absence of their friend, loved one or
coworker, but also with guilt and questions of what could have been
September is Army Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide prevention is an
institutional Army program, focused on this urgent issue year round,
but this month the Army intensifies its efforts to make sure every
Soldier, Civilian and Family member knows what resources are
available to help those in need.
The Army has developed Ask, Care, Escort (ACE) training, to equip
everyone to take care of a person at the point of crisis until a
professional can assist. It is available through the garrison
Suicide Prevention Program, as well as the Army’s Suicide Prevention
A number of other resources provide help with issues that can put a
person at risk for suicide. These resources include the Army
Substance Abuse Program (ASAP), Army Community Service’s Financial
Readiness Program, the Family Advocacy Program, Military and Family
Life Consultants, Behavioral Health, Soldier and Family Assistance
Centers, and unit and garrison Chaplains.
Looking at the bigger picture, the Army has expanded the resources
aimed at strengthening the overall resilience and well-being of our
Army Family. More training is now available through the
Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program, which focuses on physical,
emotional, social, Family and spiritual strength.
The Army’s commitment to suicide prevention has resulted in some
real policy and program changes that have reduced the number of
people at risk. But as long as any member of the Army Family views
suicide as a viable option, we still have work to do.
From the Installation Management side we are strengthening programs
that provide critical support. This includes hiring more ASAP
counselors and Suicide Prevention Program Managers for installations
worldwide, and revising the Total Army Sponsorship Program to help
transitioning Soldiers, Civilians and Families build stronger
connections with their new communities.
One key component to successful Army prevention efforts is fully
engaged, committed leadership from top to bottom.
Great leaders create a culture in which people observe standards and
discipline, and also get to know and care about each other.
They make sure policies are enforced, programs are run correctly and
everyone gets the training they need to watch out for those around
Most critically, great leaders get out the message that it is a sign
of strength to ask for help. We will keep repeating that every which
way — in formations, during stand-down days, on Facebook, in print,
on radio and TV, at Family Readiness Group meetings, at community
events — until we have no more cause for saying it.
Every positive outcome starts with one person reaching out to
another and finding strength and hope together. We are the Army
Family, and we take care of each other.