Division CSM: Suicide prevention begins with awareness

One of the greatest wars some Soldiers face won’t be on the battlefield.

Suicide is among the leading killers of people in the military and Army commanders are continuing to make it their mission to protect those lives.

“The Soldiers are our No. 1 asset that we have,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan Barker, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) senior enlisted adviser. “Suicide is clearly directly opposed to taking care of Soldiers. It’s tough. If there was an answer to how we could prevent every suicide we would have done it by now.”

Barker has known Soldiers who have taken their own lives and keeps a framed print created by one.

He said making sure Soldiers feel like they are part of a team is the key and that means commanders getting to know them on a deeper level.

On the heels of Suicide Prevention Month in September, the Army is seeking new approaches to strengthening the readiness and resilience of its Soldiers while also raising awareness about the value of life.

The Army is conducting a yearlong pilot program that implements key elements of its Suicide Prevention Plan with Soldiers from six brigades, including Fort Campbell, that will include a one-day resilience course for leaders and a two-day course for team and squad leaders.

Barker said leaders getting to know their Soldiers can help alert them when there is an issue. Being aware of Soldiers’ pasts, Family issues and fears can help leaders get a better understanding of what might be negatively impacting them.

“I’ve served with Soldiers that have taken their own lives, had Soldiers in my formations along the way take their own lives,” Barker said.

Every suicide has an impact on the formation, he said.

“Fortunately, we are at a time right now where disease, famine and war are not causing death to our Soldiers,” Barker said. “Suicide is clearly one of the prime factors that cause us to lose the lives of our young Soldiers, and it’s not just the young Soldiers, it spans across entire careers. Some people very late in their careers, high ranking officers, senior noncommissioned officers take their lives. It’s tragic.”

Barker said the Army has many resources available and anyone who thinks he or she may need help should take advantage of them.

“I strongly encourage any person going through trouble in life to seek help,” he said. “As leaders we need to minimize the repercussions and remove the stigma as well.”

Ways to get help include calling the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) or visiting www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/military-crisis-line.

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