FORT HOOD, Texas (FOX 44) – May is Mental Health Awareness Month and one aspect that affects many people in central Texas is soldier suicide.
It is estimated that by 2030, the total number of veteran suicides will be 23 times higher than the death toll after 9/11, according to the organization Stop Soldier Suicide.
“If we create trustworthy leaders, people will bring their problems to them,” said Maj. Matthew Weathers, assistant chaplain for the CAV First Division at Fort Hood.
A soldier’s suicide is a tragedy that strikes many Army installations. Most now have training that every soldier and leader must follow to know the signs and how to intervene.
“ACESI, which is ask, treat, escort, suicidal intervention,” said Sergeant First Class Jonathan Reeves, resilience coordinator for the CAV First Division. “There is an eight-hour course that is given to people in positions of trust and leaders. And it teaches the precursors and risk factors for suicidal potential, not just for suicide. It focuses primarily on suicide, but also on risky behavior.
Reeves has been through the healing process and says help begins with that first conversation a soldier has and their first level of leadership.
“Ask specifically, do you have suicidal thoughts,” he told FOX 44 News. “And when they ask that question, the only thing left to do if the soldier says yes is to escort them either to some kind of next level of care, whether it’s the emergency room, the emergency room, the chaplain or integrated behavioral health. .”
Weathers says that when it comes to learning more about a leader’s soldiers, the military has multiple resources and outlets to do bonding or group-style drills that can work as a type of therapy to help soldiers open up if they are having difficulty.
“If we can continually get soldiers to celebrate life together and enjoy life together and feel like they have a connection just beyond being people to go to work together, that makes a huge difference. as a protective factor,” Weathers said.
The military also offers what it calls suicide post-vention to family members and soldiers who had a relationship with the deceased soldier.
“In 24 hours they will be assigned a casualty assistance officer who will be their liaison to the military for anything that has to do with soldiers, soldiers’ rights,” Reeves said. “And that liaison officer is that their full-time job is to take care of that family until the family no longer needs them.”
After that, the unit leaders gather the soldiers to announce the death and at that time the chaplains and religious advisors will be on standby for anyone in need of resources.
The final piece is that every soldier in the 1st Cavalry, regardless of how they died, will have a memorial ceremony to honor them and the legacy they leave behind.
The two leaders say that while it’s hard to talk about, it needs to be discussed so the soldiers in that location know they have help moving forward.