Self-Inflicted Death – Help!

Written by Hospital Commander on 7/9/2012 1:35:05 PM | 5 Comments
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I am not trying to establish a new acronym, but ‘suicide’ is both emotionally charged and is not accurate in all such deaths.  Most importantly, ‘suicide’ is hurtful to those left behind and ought be applied with care.

Such deaths come in so many variants, but they have one commonality: they rip the hearts out of those left behind.

Variations of these deaths include suicide first.  But abuse of all manner of our surroundings and poor exercise of judgment are common as well.  Drugs and alcohol, wild risk-taking, abuse of motor vehicles, and abuse of fire-arms are but common examples.  I won’t attempt to be exhaustive.

I repeat: such deaths in the prime of life rip the hearts out of those left behind.  Family and loved ones are forever scarred.  Friends, colleagues and fellow workers, fellow Soldiers, even acquaintances will suffer from concern, usually unfounded: ‘could I have done something?’

We in the DoD and particularly we in the Army have struggled with this challenge in recent years.  We now see we’re better than our sworn enemy with whom we’re in mortal combat, at killing ourselves!

Our leaders, high and low, and our behavioral health clinicians have reached for new solutions: eliminate stigma, encourage counseling both by NCOs and Commanders and then professional counselors of all stripes.

We have introduced new ideas, new tools, new methods.  We have not limited search to our own community; we have welcomed and taken advice from experts across the Nation.  Yet we continue to see increasing death rates.

We certainly are counting every case and digging into every tragedy.  But I won’t ascribe the higher rates to more complete statistics.  The stress of military life is and has been high.

The Army is now, probably for the first time, fully focused.  But society has always undercounted such deaths and doubtless continues to do so.  In America suicides are attributed to other causes or quietly ignored for the sake of survivors.  We in the military have, and have acknowledged, this problem, but we need higher focus across the Nation.  I believe societal stresses contribute mightily to our problem.

Does this make sense?  I’m not sure there is sense to be made.


On 6/7/2013 3:59:07 PM, Public Affairs Officer wrote: A response from Dr. Laura Johnson, Chief of IRACH Department of Behavioral Health: Familiarizing ourselves with some of the signs and symptoms of behavioral health concerns is important so that we can recognize when we or someone we care about is having a difficult time and may be engaging in some non resilient behaviors, and when they need our support the “ask,” and “care,” portions of the ACE Ask Care Escort procedure. It is important to point out that ACE doesn’t need to be reserved only for suspected suicidal behavior, it’s a great strategy anytime. When looking for signs and symptoms in ourselves and others, the hallmark sign would be observing high risk behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse, and criminal behaviors . These high risk behaviors are the most significant indicators of serious behavioral health concerns. According to the Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention Report 2010, 29% of suicides involved drug or alcohol use, and 25% involved some level of criminality. When these are present it is definitely time to ask, care, and escort. Making excuses for people or ourselves will only serve to ignore the problem, and these problems don’t just go away if they are ignored. As with any other illness, early intervention is best. There are of course signs and symptoms that are less obvious, and may indicate problems before they reach the “high risk behavior” levels. When looking for signs and symptoms of behavioral health issues, some things to consider would be: In general, how do they look? Do they appear rested and well groomed? Often times behavioral health difficulties begin showing themselves with disrupted sleep, fatigue, loss of energy, a disinterest in doing things once enjoyed, disinterest in taking care of themselves and their appearance mostly from a lack of energy also, they may experience a loss of, or surge in, appetite. Another sign to look for: How are they behaving? Are they making eye contact, how are they carrying themselves are they slouched over or standing tall? Many times when someone is experiencing depressive symptoms it is hard to fully engage in life and we will notice people avoiding eye contact and slouching when they sit or stand, that loss of energy takes its toll. Are they paying attention or are they distracted and disinterested? Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and paying attention are all potential signs that something may be wrong. Also noticing how they are interacting will provide clues to how someone is feeling. Are they engaged in the conversation? Are they agitated, friendly, or guarded? Signs that something may be bothering a person would include, not being disengaged, agitated, guarded, or irritable. Also, a low frustration tolerance having very little patience, feeling anxious, and/or keyed up much of the time are other key indicators. If you recognize these signs in yourself or someone else ask the question, “Are you OK?” If you are not, or you suspect someone else is not then seek professional help at Behavioral Health, the Emergency Room at IRACH, or a local ER. Please remember that behavioral health issues are medical issues. Call 911, go to the nearest Emergency Room if after duty hours, or walkin to DBH. If it is not an Emergency situation call or come by DBH to make an appointment, talk to your MFLC, or Chaplain.

On 9/18/2012 10:36:44 PM, Dave Root wrote: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. This is a very important issue. Many of us have been touched in some way by this terrible tragedy. What can we do if someone says they are going to kill themselves? What signs will we see if someone is considering suicide? Are there signs that someone has decided to commit suicide? How can we help in those situations? How do you stop someone? I would like to help others with this problem, what can I do? What can I say to help without making things worse?

On 7/23/2012 2:22:55 PM, Hospital Commander wrote: Ms Young, Thank you for your very helpful comment. The RESPECT.Mil program has wonderful resources for Soldiers, and I encourage all to take advantage of it as needed.

On 7/19/2012 2:10:25 PM, Lisa Young wrote: According to the article Suicides are surging among US troops. June 8th, 2012 The 2012 activeduty suicide total of 154 through June 3 compares to 130 in the same period last year, an 18 percent increase. Here at Fort Knox soldiers are not alone, they do have a lifeline. There is a fairly new program called RESPECTMil to help the soldier deal with life’s stressors. We at RESPECTMil are here for the soldier. Soldiers having symptoms of depression, PTSD, anxiety or any number of stressors can be referred to the RESPECTMil program by their Primary Care Provider. In the program are RCFs RespectMil Care Facilitators who are licensed registered nurses who are invested in helping the soldier feel better. We work closely with the Primary Care Clinician and serves as a connection between the soldier and the care provider. For more information soldiers can visit us on the IACH website.

On 7/9/2012 3:09:49 PM, Barbara Boswell wrote: The famous comment it's takes a village to raise a family should apply to this subject as well. The Army Family which includes the Civilians need to be aware of the the needs of those around us before there is yet another catastrophic incident . If our motto truly is because we care then we need to be there to lend the ear or helping hand to those who preserve the dignity of our country .