An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.













NEWS | Sept. 6, 2022

Suicide prevention hinges on sensing, listening, trust

By Cheryl Phillips 88th Readiness Division

An Army Reserve officer has helped more than 100 Soldiers and veterans struggling with suicidal thoughts during the past decade by listening and providing the right resources.

Capt. Louis Goldstein, plans officer and Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, with the 389th Engineer Battalion located here uses the skills he picked up while working as a civilian with the Wounded Warrior Project for seven years along with Army Reserve suicide prevention training to get people with suicidal thoughts the help they need.

Goldstein explained that he serves as a “responsible first point of contact” with a kit bag of resources to share with Soldiers. When he senses someone is in need – what he refers to as “Spidey sense,” he talks with them and steers them to resources.

“You have to listen for cues,” he said.

Goldstein earns the trust of the Soldiers in need “by giving them an empathetic ear. I listen, I don’t talk down to them. We problem solve together which gives them control,” he said. “I have to work harder so my rank doesn’t get in the way.”

Along with another Soldier, Goldstein teaches the Engage course to battalion Soldiers, what he calls “the first layer of the suicide prevention program” which talks about standard intervention. The course explains how to “be aware of what’s going on around you, what signs people are giving,” he said.

As a positive effect, Goldstein has seen “an uptick after the class of questions from Soldiers who are not in a good spot. I believe these higher numbers are the result of the trust they feel, and people are coming forward. We’re talking about suicide, we’re giving Soldiers the space to speak up.”

The signs that a Soldier may need help are often subtle. Goldstein said that some will tell him they need help, but for others, he gets a sense that something is wrong. “There’s no real way to know. You have to be aware of a Soldier’s baseline, the normal way they act. It comes down to how well you know someone. That’s a good first step,” he said.

Other Soldiers may exhibit disciplinary problems, like absences from battle assembly or an Article 15, which is more evident.

The underlying problem that is spurring the suicide ideation could be a financial crisis such as high credit card debt or unemployment, major changes in a relationship like divorce, a death in the family and even association with someone who has died by suicide. According to Goldstein, these can all cause major changes in behavior and mental health.

Soldiers are not alone because of their “vital and instrumental” support systems provided by their parents, spouses, friends and fellow Soldiers. “These people are with the Soldier more than I could ever be,” Goldstein said.

He described how he visited a Soldier’s family and explained “this is why I’m here, here’s how I want to involve you. Without family involvement providing care, the Soldier won’t feel the support to get them where they need to be. They’re just as vital as the chain of command. Family will be there for the long term,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein acknowledges that Soldiers may be embarrassed admitting they need help. “We as a society need to get over the stigma that asking for help is a sign of weakness. I disagree with that. Asking for help is a sign of strength. It shows that you trust in someone who could provide help, and you’re confident that you can go to someone to get that help,” Goldstein said.

There are three to five resources Goldstein offers to Soldiers based on their specific need, including nonprofits, community groups, veterans service organizations and Army Reserve programs. He noted that there are many resources available, and a person may feel overwhelmed at first. And if the first group of resources don’t work, he then offers others that are similar but different.

For fellow Soldiers, Goldstein asks that they take the “time, effort and energy to sense other people. This takes time to develop. I’m still working on this.”