|Story & Photo by Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff
Three Fort McCoy organizations — the garrison, the Religious Support
Office (RSO), and the Army Substance Abuse Program office — will be
collaborating as a team during the next year to develop a campaign about
suicide prevention events. The first event dealt with stress management.
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James D.
Brown talks about stress management strategies during a suicide
prevention event held at Fort McCoy Sept. 29. The event was part
of the installation’s effort to address Armywide concerns about
Maj. Michael W. Sharp, Fort McCoy Garrison Headquarters and
Headquarters Company commander, said the purpose of the collaboration is
to take a look at the issue of suicide prevention from the physical,
spiritual and behavioral wellness aspects.
During Phase I and Phase II of suicide awareness training mandated by
the Army, a theme that came out was “Soldiers were not seeking help
because of the stigma attached to seeking help,” Sharp said. “Today, the
Army has done a survey of random units and over 60 percent of the
Soldiers responded that they no longer feel threatened about responding
to needing help for suicide prevention treatment or things like that. So
the Army is making progress in that area.”
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James D. Brown of the Fort McCoy RSO presented the
stress management program.
Brown also addressed the difference between good and bad stress.
“Stress is anything that causes you to have a reaction — good or bad,”
Brown said. “We know what good stress is. Good stress is what motivates
us to do things. That’s the thing that helps us get motivated and go out
and get better at what we do. Bad stress would be something like we have
too much on our plates. We have so much going on that we cannot get to
Everyone is going to have stress because it is a natural part of life.
Brown said if people didn’t have stress they’d be bored, lethargic and
not be doing anything. Stress can be better managed if people sit down
and make a mental plan to prioritize handling stressful events, he said.
People can relieve stress through a natural, three-step method, he said.
Step one is to develop a good physical exercise plan or program, which
the military has done for Soldiers.
Step two is to eat a well-balanced diet, including eating foods in the
proper quantities from all five food groups.
Step three is making sure to get the proper amount of sleep. All three
can be interconnected, he added. For example, someone who’s not getting
the proper amount of sleep is likely to gain weight, which will impact
their physical fitness.
“There’s some good things that happen when you sleep,” Brown said. “Your
body recuperates. Your mind rests. And that’s where it ties into suicide
prevention, suicide awareness.”
Recent studies have shown that sleep deprivation issues — not sleeping
well or sleep disorders — have played a role in people who have
committed suicide, he said.
People in the military have a good system in place to meet the first two
steps. The Army has not and does not always encourage personnel to get
adequate sleep. Field Manual 22-9 “Soldier Performance in Continuous
Operations,” printed in 1983 and now out-of-date, said Soldiers in
continuous operations should get a minimum of four or five hours of
uninterrupted sleep. Brown said, nowadays, many deployed personnel may
face the challenge of getting sufficient sleep.
Doctors have said most people need about eight hours of sleep per night
to ensure they’re operating at 100 percent capacity, Brown said.
Leaders, people with other critical jobs, and everyone, in general,
needs to ensure they get about eight hours of sleep so they’re making
decisions at full capacity.
“People should ask themselves if they can do anything that helps them
get the sleep they need,” he said. “If something is preventing that,
they should come up with plans.”
Sharp said several personnel representing suicide prevention programs
were invited to distribute information and answer questions from both
Soldiers and civilians.
Garry Hebel, the suicide prevention coordinator for the Tomah Veterans
Affairs (VA) Medical Center, said military personnel contemplating
suicide should call the National Suicide Prevention toll-free number at
800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911.
These people likely will be referred to their local VA Medical Center
for follow-up, where Hebel and his counterparts can provide help, he
Other personnel distributing information and answering questions
included personnel from the Wisconsin National Guard Joint Task Force
Headquarters and the Officer Christian Fellowship.
Sharp said the next quarterly suicide prevention event is targeted for