By Shannon Collins
WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2014 - As Suicide Prevention Month and year-long Defense Department and Department of Veteran's Affairs efforts continue to combat suicide, Pentagon officials emphasize the importance of the power of one, peer support and resources.
The DoD, in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs, has launched "The Power of 1" campaign in observance of Suicide Prevention Month during September 2014. The theme underscores the belief that one person has the power to teach resilience, recognize warning signs, intervene, chat, or make a call; it only takes one person or one act to save another person's life.
"Watching out for each other every day is a collective responsibility for the Defense Department's military and civilian workforce," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.
"Preventing military suicide is one of DoD's highest priorities and something I'm personally committed to as Secretary of Defense," Hagel said. "As we observe Suicide Prevention Month, we must rededicate ourselves to actively working not only every month, but every day to fulfill our collective responsibility to watch out for each other and take care of each other."
One way service members and DoD civilians can take care of each other is by using the "The Power of One" theme, said Jacqueline Garrick, director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office.
"One conversation, one text, one chat, could save a life. Know the resources out there," Garrick said. "Reach out, find the person who can help you; don't be afraid to have these kinds of conversations, whether you're the one who needs help or you see someone who needs help. One conversation can save a life."
Suicide is currently the 10th-leading cause of death in America, and the second- and third-leading causes of death among young adults, Garrick said. Some of the indicators of persons considering suicide, she said, could include talking about suicide, making plans, stockpiling medications, and withdrawing from people and activities that were previously enjoyable. Persons at risk could also be going through a significant loss, relationship issue, financial problems, drug and/or alcohol problems or legal or punishment issues.
The key is that whatever issue someone is facing, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, officials said.
And Pentagon leaders encourage leadership at all levels to reduce the stigma for those needing help.
"When someone is going through challenges and comes to you for help, it doesn't make them weak," Hagel said. "It means they're strong, because asking for help when you need it takes courage and strength. What we need to remember -- what our entire country needs to remember -- is that these brave individuals shouldn't be avoided or stigmatized. They need to be embraced.
"Whether you're a service member, a veteran, a DoD civilian, or a friend or family member of someone who is, you have the power to make a difference," the secretary continued. "It only takes one person to ask one question or make one call -- and that single act can save a life."
Garrick echoed Hagel's sentiment, noting that leaders at all levels should be "open to having these kinds of conversations" with potentially troubled troops and civilians.
"You have to be able to ask the question," she said. "One small act can save a life and that's what you want to do. You just want to be able to reach out, let people know what you're concerned about them. If you see something that doesn't look right, say something and get involved. Provide those resources that are out there."
Garrick encourages those needing help to use the many resources available, such as chaplains, military family life consultants, mental health clinics, peers, community support organizations, Vets4Warriors and the Military Crisis Line.
"We want to encourage people to seek help when and where they need it and know that those resources are there for them," Garrick said of the Military Crisis Line and Vets4Warriors programs. "You don't have to have a diagnosis. A peer is there because they understand what someone is going through because they have gone through it themselves and can talk you through the situation.
"The peers on the line are veterans themselves," she continued. "We have some spouses on the line who can work with family members about family issues. Our peers are just good to be able to talk to, whatever your problem is, whether you're having a financial problem or a relationship issue.
"You can talk through the issue with a peer who understands what it's like to access healthcare, find a good provider, talk to your command and talk to other unit members," Garrick added. "They've had to do those things themselves, so they can really guide you and help you make those decisions."
When people call the Military Crisis Line, 1-800-273-8255, and press 1, they can speak to a confidential peer responder specifically trained to deal with any crisis or stresses the service member, veteran or family member may be facing, Garrick said. People can also reach it via an online chat or text message or online at http://www.militarycrisisline.net. It is free, confidential, and trained professionals are there 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year.
Vets4Warriors is also free and confidential for service members, their family members, veterans and DoD civilians. It can be reached at 1-855-838-8255 or by visiting http://vets4warriors.com. Peer support is available 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year.
Defense Suicide Prevention Office
Special Report: Suicide Prevention: The Power of 1
Military Crisis Line