“I’m struggling right now and just need to talk with someone. Can we chat?”
“This is really hard for me to say, but I’m having painful thoughts, and it might help to talk. Are you free?”
“I don’t want to die, but I don't know how to live. Talking with you may help me feel safe. Can we talk about it?”
Suicide ideation can be frightening, but acknowledging the moment and reaching out for support can help prevent devastating outcomes. The Army has a wealth of resources available; some of these include the R2 Performance Centers for building resilience and the Suicide Prevention Program(SP2) which educates and trains active duty, reserves, guard members, DA Civilians and Family members on suicide prevention.
For National Guard and Army Reserve components, there are complex challenges in reaching support resources. Unlike active components, guard members and reserves do not work or reside on traditional Army installations. They are only obligated to drill one weekend a month locally, and two weeks a year (apart from deployments or state activations for guard members). This means that while they have access to the programs and resources provided to the Army as a whole, they depend more on private-sector resources in their everyday lives.
“The U.S. Army Reserve has relied on resources outside of what the typical Army installation offers. Our Soldiers reside in cities nationwide—even worldwide—and rely on local support,” says Kimberly Franco, USARC, G1, Suicide Prevention Program manager, Army veteran and founder of One Common Bond, a grief and loss support organization.
When Soldiers are dispersed across their local communities in a part-time capacity, they sometimes lack the medical coverage needed to pay for mental health services in critical times. That means National Guard and Army Reserve suicide prevention specialists have the added task of sourcing local assistance that can offer discounted or free community care. Other ways Soldiers can build resilience and find aid is through local armed service chapters—strength in numbers.
“[Consider joining] a bowling league or a running group. The obvious way to build resilience in our formations is to use the MRT skills, but Soldiers appreciate personal testimonials from leaders about overcoming obstacles. Leaders must understand that Soldiers are looking to them for guidance, both spoken and unspoken. When a leader can share how they overcame an obstacle, it does two things. First, it lets Soldiers see that leaders are human just like them, and secondly, it takes pressure off Soldiers from feeling the need to be perfect,” says Franco.
As we head into National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September, we embolden our military Family to learn more about suicide prevention and postvention actions to minimize the risk for suicide. This year’s Army theme is “You Are a Light in Somebody’s Life,” in conjunction with the hashtag #connecttoprotect.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicide ideation, dial the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. This line offers free, confidential 24/7 support to anyone across the U.S.