• Suicide prevention, awareness theme of month

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. During the month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies and community members come together to promote suicide prevention awareness, according to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
    At Fort Leavenworth, the Army Substance Abuse Program is one of the key prevention organizations, hosting monthly training for soldiers and civilians living and working at Fort Leavenworth at 8 a.m. every first Wednesday of the month at the Post Theater. Suicide prevention training is a yearly requirement for all soldiers and Army civilians.
    This month’s training Sept. 5 focused on the theme of bringing about awareness and identifying the risk factors and warning signs, said Elizabeth Everette, ASAP suicide prevention manager.
    The guest speaker for the September training was Dr. Stephanie Davis, suicide prevention coordinator for Veterans Affairs Eastern Kansas Health Care System.
    According to the VA, from 2005 to 2015, the rate of veteran suicide increased 35.3 percent for men and 45.2 percent for women.
    According to Davis, 123 Americans die each day by suicide. Of that 123, one or two are active-duty service members and 20 are veterans. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the nation. In veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, research shows the risk of suicide increases with suicidal ideation rates between 22-56 percent and suicidal attempt rates between 8-32 percent.
    Veteran deaths by suicide most often occur around 25 years after service with a spike in the first year after separating from the military, Davis said. Of those deaths, within the first year, 43 percent occur within the first 90 days.
    “That transition is very hard for soldiers,” Everette said. “They go from they have a purpose in life to ‘I don’t have a purpose in life.’”
    ASAP’s focus when promoting suicide prevention is on training soldiers and civilians to become more aware of the signs in someone considering suicide and ways to help.
    One way is through the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.
    “This gives them the training they need to ask them outright,” Everette said. “We are the life-savers. We are the ones who pull the people out of the water and pull them to safety. We want to give people the tools to know the warning signs.”
    Davis said key signs of someone considering suicide is feeling burdensome, feeling alone or like they don’t belong and acquired capability for suicide including a lack of fear of death and pain or access to or familiarity with firearms.
    While these factors are things to look for, Everette said there is one more key sign that loved ones often miss, when a loved one suddenly goes from being sad to happy.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Whenever you have a big decision in your life you’re trying to decide, ‘what do I do?’ They may struggle at first,” Everette said. “Then, you may think this person is doing good (when they’re suddenly happy). Actually, you have to be careful because this person may be at peace with their decision.”
    The next ASIST training is at 8 a.m. Sept. 27-28 at Frontier Chapel. It is open to all soldiers and civilians living and working at Fort Leavenworth. To sign-up, call Everette at 684-2869.
    Everette said while it’s important for everyone to receive some kind of suicide prevention training, it’s particularly important for those involved with the military.
    “Looking at soldiers sometimes you just see them as strong, unbreakable people. They carry a lot and they’ve been through a lot. They have good baggage, they have bad baggage, and sometimes it becomes overwhelming,” Everette said. “But they tend to hide it because we’re in a world where you want to move up and they think, ‘I have to keep this under wraps so nobody knows so I can get to the next level.’ Then, a lot of times they may go, deploy and come back and not get the help they need. Things may start to trigger that and have an effect on the home as well.
    “So, it’s important that soldiers are aware that there is help out there before it gets to that point to where they just feel hopeless and like they’re a burden,” she said. “This is where ASIST comes in. It’s all about caring, taking that time and loaning oneself out emotionally and showing someone you care.”
    Along with the monthly training and the ASIST, ASAP also offers individual unit training upon request.
    In recognition of Suicide Prevention Month, ASAP is also hosting the third annual Suicide Prevention Task Force Golf Tournament at 1 p.m. Sept. 7 at Trails West Golf Course. The event is a four-person scramble that includes one round of golf, cart rental, prizes, range balls, beverage tickets and a meal following the round. Cost is $45 for members and $55 for nonmembers. Prepay and save $5. For more information, call (913) 651-7176.
    National Suicide Prevention Week is Sept. 10-16 and World Suicide Prevention Day is Sept. 10.
    The Veterans Crisis hotline, available 24 hours a day, can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or text 838255.
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