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October 12, 2012


Suicide prevention awareness event part of Armywide stand down

Story & photo by Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff

Many resources are available to anyone in the Fort McCoy community who feels overwhelmed by problems or stressed about life issues to help them regain or maintain control of their life.

Speakers at a Fort McCoy Suicide Prevention Awareness Luncheon Sept. 27 outlined the Army’s philosophy and told a packed audience about the programs and resources available. The event was presented as part of an Armywide stand down to concentrate on suicide prevention awareness. The theme of the event was “Shoulder to Shoulder, We Stand Up for Life.”
PHOTO: An audience is briefed during a Suicide Prevention Awareness Luncheon. Photo by Rob Schuette
Scott Zaehler, garrison Suicide Prevention Program manager and Employee Assistance Program manager, briefs attendees at the Suicide Prevention Awareness Luncheon about services they can use to help them deal with life issues and help prevent more-serious concerns.

The Vice Chief of Staff for the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III ordered the stand down as a way to prevent further loss of life due to suicide. For the first seven months of 2012, the military recorded more than 200 suicides, officials said.

Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Steven W. Nott said the bottom line is that suicide prevention awareness is much like the Army mantra to never leave a fallen comrade behind.

“We are our neighbor’s neighbor,” Nott said. “We need to look out for each other. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder. If we think there is something wrong and we have a comrade who is hurting, we must intervene. If you don’t really know how to do it, that’s why we have ACS (Army Community Service), that’s why we have ASAP (Army Substance Abuse Program), that’s why we have the chaplaincy. Go see them. They can help that person you see is hurting.”

Becky Wapp Sawyer, Fort McCoy ACS director and a clinical licensed social worker, said people, including those attending the session, are survivors and must deal with many stressors in their lives. ACS has many resources and training to help people in the Fort McCoy community who are experiencing tough times in their life, she said.

ACS staff provide information and answer questions to help reduce people’s stress, Sawyer said.

Among the programs offered are an Exceptional Family Member Program and a Family Advocacy Program. These programs can refer parents to community resources or help provide them with basic parenting skills, she said.

“Using these programs gives you a chance to hear other people, what they’re going through and how they handled it,” Sawyer said. “You all know how to parent; sometimes it’s just that you need to find the best way to do it.”

Other programs to help reduce stress include Survivor Outreach Services and Military Family Life Consultants; financial, jobs, and relocation services; and victim advocates for domestic violence prevention.

ACS has resiliency programs to help people combat stressors, Sawyer said.

“Our resiliency program is meant not just to have you survive your issues or your stressors or your drama, it is to help you survive and come out the other end strong,” she said.

Sawyer said the organization also has a number of classes, including financial classes to help members of the community deal with financial issues or problems.

Workshops about the Thrift Savings Plan will be held Oct. 30 (for those in the earlier stages of their career) and Nov. 1 (for those nearing retirement.)

Army Emergency Relief can provide emergency financial assistance to Soldiers and their Family members. Sawyer said this helps keep those military members facing financial emergencies from having to go to a payday lender for assistance, she said.

“Sometimes it’s just really good to give,” Sawyer said. “We have a volunteer program that can give you different opportunities in our area in the communities or at Fort McCoy that can help you do that. Reaching out, meeting people. Sometimes when things aren’t great in your own life, it’s really nice to reach out to others and just help other people.”

More information about ACS programs is available by calling 608-388-3505.

Scott Zaehler, garrison Suicide Prevention Program manager and Employee Assistance Program manager, said one of his goals is to assist people before they reach a crisis stage in their lives. Zaehler also is the ASAP manager.

“If there’s one thing I want everyone to take away from this it is we all have many wonderful programs,” he said. “If we can get our co-workers, the people who work for us, to access these programs prior to a crisis, that crisis may never happen. Becky had a great example with the financial class. Financial stress is a huge risk factor.”
Zaehler said he also provides services to help people before they reach a crisis stage. He can offer short-term confidential counseling or if it’s beyond his expertise, he can refer people to community resources.

Zaehler said he can match them with resources that will accept their health-care coverage.

More information is available by calling 608-388-2441.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Allen Raub, garrison chaplain, said he dealt with many of these issues while working on a psychiatric ward as a hospital chaplain at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Raub went through a one-year residency program that provided training in clinical and pastoral education.

His research paper for his residency examined the relationship between faith and spirituality and the treatment of mental health.

“Seventy-five percent of the (more than 850) studies done on this show that people who have faith, who practiced their spiritual resiliency, had better mental health and were able to adapt to stress more successfully,” Raub said.

“It helps them to overcome the challenges, the trials, the difficulties and sometimes the major crises that we go through in our lives.”

A personal instance in his life helped shape his resilience in this area.

Raub said his son underwent successful treatment for leukemia and taught his Family about God bringing people into their life during a time of crisis and picking up the load and taking care of them. People prayed for them and their son, he said.

The incident taught him that everyone needs to have individuals in their lives who can stand with them, pray with them, support them and provide help in times of crisis or need.

This is what the Chaplain’s Office will provide to the Fort McCoy community, including confidential counseling about anything going on in their life, he said.

For more information, call 608-388-3528.

A list of many installation and national resources also was printed on page 2 of the Sept. 28 issue of The Real McCoy. The online version is available at www.mccoy.army.mil/ReadingRoom/Newspaper/RealMcCoy/09282012/Suicide.htm.

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