Fighting for awareness

Although Suicide Prevention Month is not until September, the leadership at Fort Bragg wants to remind the community that suicide is a problem that must be dealt with at all levels, by everyone in the community, all year long. It is a shared social problem that requires everyone to be aware of the signs and stressors that could lead someone to contemplate and commit suicide – and then know what appropriate action to take to help the person through their crisis.

Suicide not only ends a person’s life, it affects all those around the person – Family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, unit readiness and resilience and degrades the community.

The Department of Defense Suicide Event Report is the department’s principle suicide surveillance tool. Within DoDSER, the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy collect and report on servicemember suicide events and associated factors. It summarizes calendar year 2013 fatal and nonfatal suicide events reported and submitted by March 31, 2014. It also identifies several areas that can inform suicide prevention efforts, including suicide event information, behavioral health diagnosis, psychosocial stressors, demographics and deployment history.

The calendar year 2013 DoDSER indicates that the most common demographics associated with suicides are among males, white/Caucasian, non-Hispanic, junior enlisted (E1-E4), under 30 years of age and educated through high school.

The primary methods for suicides were firearms and hanging. The majority of firearms used were non-military issued firearms. Drugs and/or alcohol overdose was the most common method indicated in suicide attempt reports.

The most common behavioral health diagnosis for suicide DoDSERs were mood and adjustment disorders. For suicide attempt DoDSERs, the most common behavioral health diagnoses were mood and anxiety disorders.

Although this report shows some of the most common stressors and demographics that were known to precede a suicide, it also documents the complexity and variety of circumstances that exist prior to a suicide event. It also underlines the importance of this issue and the fact that prevention involves everyone.

The DoDSER document, available at www.suicideoutreach.org/Docs/Reports/2013_DoDSER_Annual_Report.pdf, contains a message from Pamela S. Mitchell, director of Defense Human Resources Activities, emphasizing that suicide prevention involves everyone in the community. The adjacent imaginary letter is from a surviving spouse to their spouse who committed suicide

(Editor’s note: Information for this article was gathered from different sources, including www.suicideoutreach.org/Docs/Reports/2013)

The aftermath of suicide

My Dearest,

You thought life would be better without you! You thought the problems, our problems, would just go away if you were dead! How could you be so selfish? You opened up a whole new box of problems, stresses and questions!

Friends are curious and asking why? What am I suppose to tell them – “Life is great now that you are gone!” or “Things were just too hard and you were weak!” Your best friend, Jody is taking it personally for missing the signs, for not being there for you and has started drinking more. How do you think that Family is doing? Thanks for shifting the blame. Life is better without you, huh?

Our parents are so confused. Your parents cannot figure out how you came to this decision. Your mother is taking it extremely hard, so much so they have medicated her for depression, anxiety and sleep deprivation after her second night of insomnia wondering where she went wrong. Your father hasn’t spoken since he was told. He just sobs constantly by himself in the den. My parents don’t know what to do with themselves – they have asked hundreds of times what they can do or how they can help; I haven’t figured out how to get you back.

The children are in shock and their depth of understanding is a mystery. J.C. fought the notion at first, now he just cries because you are gone. Of course Sam doesn’t know or understand; I will explain you and your actions in four or five years when the questions start. I don’t look forward to reliving this tragic period of our lives, so thank you for that. The others just joined me in the bed, where I have been since that day, and cry to ourselves as we hold on to each other until they fall asleep – then I cry alone. Wishing I could hold you!?

From this bed, our bed, the questions have filled the room. Memorial services, funeral plans, where to bury you, should you be cremated? Decisions I am not ready to make; however, you at least took care of the open casket question. That sucks. I am also dealing with all our debt collectors – did you think they would go away by taking your life? The Army and your command are helping some, but I have to decide when to move and where?!

I planned on a lifetime with you, living every moment to the fullest and you ripped that away. You have put my world and the entire Family into a tailspin and destroyed the calm and happiness. And it changed nothing. It has made some problems worse and created others. Most of all, you broke my heart. We are … were, a team. Why didn’t you talk to me? Why didn’t I see the signs? Why didn’t we get help – together? I thought … oh well, too late now.

This is unbearable – the pain, the sorrow, the sadness in our children’s eyes, the questions with no answers, and the desperate need for understanding … by all of us, everyone? If this is better, I don’t know what could be worse? But I wish I knew …

With love always...