Suicide is an issue that crosses all ages and walks of life; including the Army, where values such as being physically and mentally tough and never leaving a fallen comrade are cornerstones of the organization. Because of this issue, the U.S. Army Reserve Command created the position for a Suicide Prevention Program Manager last year, with the purpose of further developing policy and procedures for assisting Soldiers at the unit level.
Prior to this, the only Army Reserve Program Managers were located at USARC. This program puts experts at the lowest level to better address the needs of the Soldier allowing for better networking with providers across the command including Veteran Affairs and community-based mental health providers. This brand-new Army Reserve program serves as a resource tool for the command to help its Soldiers much like its active duty counterpart.
"The Army Reserve has a unique situation," said Michelle L. Steimer, the Suicide Prevention Program Manager for the 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). “On active duty, everyone lives in the beehive. There's a place to go for everything you need. For a Reservist, you could live 200 miles or more from your unit. Now when an issue comes up commanders and Soldier have the tools to address the issues immediately at the unit level.”
"I am the Reserve proponent of the big picture," said Steimer, a U.S. Army Reserve Soldier and mental health therapist. Steimer presented the316th ESC Suicide Prevention Program to commanders and first-line leadership during the 316th ESC sponsored commanders' workshop here, Sept. 21.
Steimer developed a unit level program in the USARC initiative in June, creating the program in support of the 377th TSC and USARC pillars to suicide prevention. The position was meant to help streamline the mental health referral process, as well as command referrals and to give commanders a resource to get Soldiers the services they need, said Steimer.
"I enjoy having the life experience to bring to the position to say, 'I have sat where you have sat. I have been a commander. I have deployed. I have done this job, and it is hard. How can I make your life easier? How can I reach out to your Soldiers to get them what they need to become more resilient, to learn from crisis, and to come out on top?'"
September is Resiliency Month, and as a part of the suicide prevention campaign, the suicide and resiliency programs linked together to create "Ready and Resilient."
"That is the across the USARC campaign this month: how to be resilient, how to hunt for the good stuff, how to put things in perspective," said Steimer. One of her goals is to help people become more resilient so they have a better capability of dealing with difficult issues.
Steimer is focusing on educating the community and commanders of this resource through command events like the commanders' workshops, making available informational books and CDs, speaking at community events at universities, attending the mental health board every month, and meeting with the Red Cross and the VA. Steimer said getting out and removing the taboo could help people become more comfortable with seeking help when needed.
"I am trying to reach out past the Army Reserve to the community at large," said Steimer. "One of the descriptions for my duty is build a community network of care. I'm available and willing to help at any time. It is my honor to do this. I have an investment in improving the lives within our command, and I am more than willing to do anything someone needs, within reason, to get them help."
The Suicide Prevention Program is available to military families and veterans too, with many resources available whether at home or overseas.