by Rodney Jackson, CRDAMC Public Affairs
FORT CAVAZOS, Texas – With the theme ‘You Are a Light in somebody’s life’ for Suicide Prevention Month, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center professionals committed to being that light to helping those in need and offering different ways to protect themselves and others not only this month but throughout the year during a proclamation ceremony Sept. 15 (in the hospital atrium) here.
Col. Garrick Cramer, CRDAMC commander, echoed that message in his remarks after briefly describing the affects suicide has on individuals and families from all walks of life.
“Amidst the darkness, we stand here today as beacons of light united in our determination to make a difference,” Cramer said. “This proclamation signing is more than just a gathering of leaders, professionals, experts and those who have been touched by suicide. It’s a platform for education, collaboration, and most importantly empathy.”
Through our collective knowledge, shared experiences, and unwavering compassion, we can create a ripple effect of change that reaches far beyond the confines of this hospital, he added.
Warning signs of someone needing help may consist of withdrawing from social contact (in person or online), loss of interest in things that were once meaningful, depression, or anxiety. Some may give verbal hints, like talking about wanting to never wake up, or making jokes about their death, etc.
“If someone comes to you for help, or if your gut tells you that someone is in need of help – the first step is just reaching out and making yourself available,” said Lt. Col. Jason Unsworth, chief, Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care, CRDAMC. “Simple acts of connection can be powerful. Just reach out and check in with folks – ask if they are okay. If you are worried that someone is experiencing thoughts of suicide, don’t be afraid to be direct and ask them “Are you thinking about suicide?” If they answer “yes” then listen with compassion and without judgement and get others, including professionals, who can help.”
Army OneSource, the People First Center, and Fort Cavazos Garrison command offered information, resource tables and guest speakers as well.
Staff Sgt. Keven Smith, combat engineer, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, and suicide prevention program manager in the People First Center, shared his life story and experiences that propelled him to become a suicide prevention counselor.
He has made a big impact in the program. Over the last year Smith has given more than 100 suicide prevention training sessions and has intervened with more than 60 individuals that needed support.
“Part of suicide prevention is understanding that there are a lot of underlying mental health struggles that individuals join the military with that they may not be willing to tell you about,” Smith said. “I’m very big on asking, but I think it’s important to allow someone to tell you (about their struggles) and I think the Army is going in the right direction in offering the support and resources for individuals.”
The Army recently published its first stand-alone Suicide Prevention policy, Army Regulation 600-92, Army Suicide Prevention Program, committed to addressing suicide through a comprehensive program that integrates suicide prevention strategies and activities to prevent self-directed and other harmful behaviors.
Service members that are experiencing mental health struggles or if they just want training to provide support can contact the People First Center at https://home.army.mil/cavazos/index.php/units-tenants/iii-corps/people-first-center. The training is a three-day immersion course with interacting lanes that recreate a realistic scenario for individuals that will help if or when they are put in that situation.
“Any time there is behavioral health that goes untreated it can turn into suicidal thoughts,” said Summer Dixon, suicide prevention program coordinator, Fort Cavazos Garrison. “There are many conditions out there and we always encourage our service members, family members, civilian employees as well, that if they are having any feelings of loneliness, feeling like a burden to others, no light at the end of the tunnel or whatever thoughts or emotions that they can’t process or navigate, to get to an outpatient behavioral health clinic, the emergency room, or a military family life counselor that are available for civilian personnel as well.”
Military OneSource also offers 24/7 confidential non-medical counselors for service members and their families ages six and up. Visit https://www.militaryonesource.mil/non-medical-counseling/ for more information.
Beneficiaries can log on and chat live or call 800-342-9647 for support. If you’re concerned for someone experiencing suicidal ideation, you should contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis lifeline by dialing 9-8-8 or the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741.