[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                    October 9, 2009
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Suicide prevention event
focuses on stress management

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.

Photo: 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 Soldier suicides. (Photo by Rob Schuette)
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 Soldier suicides.

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 it all.”

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 said.

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 November.

 

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