By Dr. Lindsay Braden, Fort Meade Medical Department Activity
The topic of suicide is often a difficult subject to broach, particularly when someone has personal concerns about the safety of a loved one, family member, friend, colleague or even one’s own well-being.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. National Suicide Prevention Week is Sept. 10–16.
Suicide is a national health problem that is also one of the leading causes of preventable death in our nation.
Contrary to popular belief, asking someone who appears to exhibit warning signs if he is feeling suicidal will not increase his risk of suicide. Rather, it will provide relief that someone cares.
The most prevalent issues reported by service members at risk for suicidal behavior — relationship problems, work stress, legal problems, physical health problems — are consistent with risk in the U.S. population. Nearly three-fourths — 73 percent — of Soldiers with suicidal behavior had previous behavioral health diagnoses.
This might suggest the success of efforts to bring Soldiers into behavioral health care and keep them engaged in care.
Research findings that are oftentimes surprising to many is that suicide rates are similar, regardless of deployment status. Leaving the military, however, significantly increases suicide risk.
According to the latest research, approximately 70 percent of military suicide deaths involve the use of firearms.
If someone is at risk, help keep firearms from them until they recover. It’s the same as holding onto a friend’s automobile keys when he is drunk.
So what can we do with this information to help best support our service members and their families?
First, recognizing the warning signs is essential to ensuring someone receives help as soon as possible.
In general, most people who are suicidal do not actually want to end their life; they just want to be free from the emotional, physical and/or psychological pain they are experiencing.
In the midst of the acute stressors they may be facing, people often see no other option or solution from their current predicament. However, helping individuals recognize that there is hope, that things can and do change, and that help is available can make the ultimate difference.
This may require help and support beyond what you can provide as a battle buddy, friend or loved one.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which also services the Military Crisis Line, can connect you to local crisis staff in your area to best address immediate concerns and assist service members and their families with finding resources, support and help. All calls are kept confidential.
The Behavioral Health Clinic at Fort Meade is available to see walk-ins for emergencies from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and offers outpatient clinical services.
Individual/group psychotherapy and medication management is also available at 2481 Llewellyn Ave., and can be reached at 301-677-8895 or 301-677-8239.
Chaplain services are also great sources of comfort, emotional support and encouragement.
People needing immediate assistance should contact 911 and/or go to their local emergency room.
Fort Meade’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Program includes a presentation by Andrew O’Brien, a suicide survivor whose powerful message is a way to recognize that there is always hope.
O’Brien’s presentation is scheduled for today from 1-3 p.m. at the Post Theater.