|By Karen Parrish, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. — September, National Suicide Prevention and Awareness
Month, is a reminder to everyone in the military community to watch out
for each other, a senior defense official said.
Jacqueline Garrick, acting director of the Defense Suicide Prevention
Office, told the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service the
Defense Department’s theme for the month’s observance, “Stand By Them,”
is a prompt to get involved when a friend or loved one seems distressed.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, she noted, has been adamant about
encouraging people to seek help, and in stressing leaders’
responsibility to ensure their people get the counseling they need.
“I think the first key factor is to understand the signs and symptoms of
suicide, and not to be afraid to ask the question,” she said. “It’s a
myth that if you ask somebody, ‘Are you feeling suicidal?’ that you’ll
put a thought in their head. And that’s just not going to happen. If
somebody’s really in distress ... the first thing we want people to know
to do is ask the questions, ‘Do you feel like you could hurt yourself,’
‘Do you have a plan?,’ and ‘How can I help?’”
Garrick said relationship issues, legal or financial problems often are
factors in the lives of people at risk for suicide.
Anyone suspecting possible suicidal impulses in a friend, co-worker or
loved one also should be sensitive to changes in moods or behavior
patterns, she added.
McCoy has many resources,
to federal resources
Fort McCoy community members who
have questions or concerns about suicide prevention, awareness
and related issues have a number of resources available to them
here as well as various programs at the federal level.
Scott Zaehler, Fort McCoy Employee Assistance Program
coordinator who also is the Fort McCoy Suicide Prevention
Program manager, can provide free, confidential counseling
to Department of the Army (DA) civilians for a variety of issues
including life stress, home stress and work stress. The
Employee Assistance Program also can assist in finding local
resources to address more-specific issues. For more information,
The Religious Support Office (RSO) or garrison chaplain’s
office is available for pastoral counseling for any member of
the Fort McCoy community, military or civilian. For more
information, call 608-388-3528.
Ask, Care, Escort (ACE) training is an annual requirement
for Soldiers and DA civilians. The Fort McCoy RSO or the Suicide
Prevention Program manager can deliver this training. Family
members also are encouraged to take this training.
Army Community Service (ACS) offers the Fort McCoy
community a variety of classes and training that can increase
resiliency and problem-solving skills. Examples include
parenting classes, communications, stress management, connecting
people with resources and financial management. ACS also
maintains an extensive resource library. For more information,
Military Family Life Consultants can provide counseling
services to servicemembers and their Family members. Military
also can seek counseling services through their health-care
providers. For more information about Military Family Life
Consultants, call 608-469-1432.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK
(8255) is available to anyone needing crisis assistance.
Veterans calling this resource should press 1 to be connected to
the Veterans Crisis Line (Veterans
which provides assistance for a variety of issues including
chronic pain, anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, and suicide.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website,
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org, also has the
capability to engage in live chats with people in crisis.
The Army One Source website at
presents broad-based information about programs and services and
describes how Soldiers and Families can access and obtain
information regardless of where they live.
The Real Warriors Campaign at the website
is a multimedia public awareness campaign designed to encourage
help-seeking behavior among servicemembers, veterans and
military Families coping with invisible wounds.
Excessive risk-taking, substance abuse, giving away possessions and
changes in life-insurance arrangements are all possible indicators
someone may be considering suicide, she said.
“Be mindful of those kinds of things,” she advised. Garrick added that
mood changes in both directions can indicate a person is considering
“Sometimes it’s a euphoria, or it’s a depression,” she said. “So just be
mindful. And leadership needs to know ... what their servicemembers are
like, so that they can know when there have been those changes.”
Garrick said she encourages military Family members concerned about a
loved one’s state of mind to contact commands, chaplains’ offices,
community services, or any other means of help they can reach.
“One of the key features that we’re working on right now is with the
Department of Veterans Affairs,” she said.
“For several years, they have been working on the Veteran’s Crisis Line,
and we have been working with them to rebrand (it) as the Military
Crisis Line so that our men and women in uniform know that the Military
Crisis Line — the ‘1-800-273-TALK (8255) number, press 1 if you’re
military’ — is for them as well.”
The Military Crisis Line is an overarching and confidential resource —
“one number to call when you’re experiencing any kind of crisis, any
kind of suicidal ideation, any thoughts, feelings ... that you’re not
sure how to deal with,” Garrick said.
The crisis line also has an online chat option at
http://www.militarycrisisline.net, and a text component reachable by
smart phone at 838255, she explained.
“You can access assistance any way, any time of the day, from anywhere
in the world,” Garrick said, adding other options are in place or in
development for troops overseas.
Any of the various means of approach to the crisis line will put
military members or their Families in contact with a Veterans Affairs
(VA) mental health provider, she said. Garrick noted Family members
often are the first to notice a loved one’s struggles, and she
encourages them, as well, to reach out through the crisis line.
“We know that Family members are usually the first ones to see if
somebody has had any changes in mood, personality and activity,” Garrick
said. “They’re the ones that need to hear the message first.
“We want to give them a way to get involved,” she continued. “If they
call the crisis line, Family members can be supported as well — for
their servicemember, and for their own issues.”
Garrick acknowledged there is a common belief among military members
that seeking help for mental-health issues can damage their careers.
“Not seeking help is going to harm your career even more,” she said.
“So, even if you have to take a medication, or you can’t deploy, or you
have to go for further testing ... there are benefits to treatment.
Mental-health support “that we know works” is available across the
services through military treatment facilities, community mental health
services and chaplains’ offices, Garrick said.
“That will benefit your career in the long run,” she added. “And, it
will benefit your life in the long run, because this isn’t just about
your military career — it’s about your Family well-being, it’s about
your safety, and it’s about what your long-term plan is for your
Someone who calls the crisis line, Garrick said, “can expect to talk to
somebody who is compassionate and competent. These are all trained
clinicians (and) providers that are on the other end of the line.”
Military crisis line responders understand military culture, and many
are themselves veterans, she said.
“The VA works very closely with this department to make sure that our
servicemembers are being cared for properly,” she said. “So they can
expect to get the best-possible assistance and competent care.”