By Master Sgt. Tasha J. Wright, NCOIC, Mission Command Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command
Prevention is defined as the action of stopping something from happening or arising. The most critical part to know is that prevention is an action, something we must actually do.
As part of suicide prevention, we take classes and are taught how to use the Ask, Care, Escort (ACE) model, and we are also taught resiliency skills to help cope with difficult situations.
Those classes require presence and participation but it is up to us to take what we’ve learned even further and act to prevent suicide.
Like many of those reading this article, I know Soldiers and friends who have committed suicide.
Some were just starting out in their military careers, some were at the finish line, and many others were somewhere in between. No matter what the circumstances surrounding their death, I always found myself saying the same thing — “I wish there was something I could have done.”
Suicide always seems to come as a shock but there are warning signs.
As family, friends, leaders, co-workers and acquaintances, we need to know what those warning signs are and be prepared to take the appropriate actions to intervene.
I have also been in situations where I was fortunate enough to take the actions necessary to stop a fellow Soldier from taking their life.
It was never easy and oftentimes it was absolutely terrifying, because my success or failure meant the difference between life and death for someone.
Active suicide prevention requires getting out of your comfort zone.
Asking someone, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” is uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as hearing no reply when their name is called during roll call or offering condolences to their mother, father, spouse or child.
Preventing suicide requires taking the skills and creeds that are a part of us and actually putting them into motion.
It is impossible to discuss suicide prevention without discussing culture. In order for an individual to seek help, they need to feel that their reaching out won’t compound what they already think is an impossible situation.
Suicide is not the action of a weak person, it’s the action of a person who feels they have nowhere left to turn.
Actively preventing suicide starts long before a brother or sister-in-arms has reached their breaking point. It starts by actively acknowledging that people have problems and that those problems can seem overwhelming at times.
It continues by actively acknowledging the strength and courage of those who seek help for their problems, small and large. It reaches its critical point when we actively intervene to stop someone from taking their own life.
It is up to us to actively prevent suicide and motivate and encourage others to do the same.
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
As the Army’s only independent operational tester, USAOTC tests Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. USAOTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.