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Suicide Prevention: Number of self referrals on upswing

Gary Westling, ACE-SI facilitator, helps a group through a group activity during an ACE-SI training course March 12 at Wings Chapel. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Gary Westling, ACE-SI facilitator, helps a group through a group activity during an ACE-SI training course March 12 at Wings Chapel. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: August 29, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 29, 2014) -- Suicides in the Army are down from the same time last year, but that doesn’t mean that the issue should be taken any more lightly, according to a Fort Rucker Army Substance Abuse Program official.

Traci Dunlap, ASAP suicide prevention manager, wants to make sure Fort Rucker is ready to take on Suicide Prevention Month in September by providing the people on the installation the tools and resources they need to combat the ever-present issue.

And although the numbers are down, the prevention manager said that the training and advocacy is necessary to continue to help save lives.

“The trends (in suicide) are going down, but you have to observe all the factors before you make a real assessment as to why those numbers are down,” said Dunlap. “We like to think that it’s because of the prevention education.

“On our installation, we have a good number of people who self-refer to behavioral health, and we’re always excited about that and the increase of self-referrals,” she continued. “That’s what we want – for people to seek help through ASAP, behavioral health, Family advocacy or whatever it is. We want them to self-refer early so we can get the problem handled.”

This year, “Happy Hour,” a comedy routine that will hit on tough issues, such as suicide, will be coming to the installation at the post theater Sept. 10-11 for two sessions throughout each day.

“The show will showcase 30 minutes of comedy, followed by 30 minutes of a more serious scenario,” said Dunlap. “The presenter will be talking about his own life experiences, so we’re hoping that he’ll be able to communicate the importance of looking out for each other to the audience.”

The show will also fulfill suicide prevention and alcohol awareness training credits, but aside from receiving credit for training, Dunlap encourages people to attend for the real-world applications the training can provide.

“This is a new way to consider viewing the topic … and I think it’s important for all of us to know that we don’t need to just stand by and watch somebody struggle,” she said. “It’s important for us, anytime we see something going on, whether it’s domestic abuse, sexual assault or any of those things … to speak up and try to prevent these people from falling victim or hurting themselves.”

Dunlap used the example of Robin Williams, a world-renown comedian loved by millions, who fell victim to depression, ultimately resulting in suicide.

“That just shows it can happen to anybody,” she said. “We just need to be aware and understand that it could be happening to the person sitting next to you and you just don’t know, so if you learn to be a little more sensitive to it, maybe you can help the people around you.”

In addition to the show, Fort Rucker will also host the Ask, Care, Escort Suicide Intervention training course Sept. 4 and 5, which is a class set up for gatekeepers, or first-line supervisors and junior leaders to learn not only about suicide prevention, but intervention in a more interactive, group setting, said the prevention manager.

“The nature of this class is more inviting and creates much more conversation about the topic of suicide with lots of group activities and interaction rather than a typical classroom setting,” she said. “That’s how we learn from each other and learn about the importance of suicide prevention – by talking with one another.

There will also be displays and booths set up throughout the month around the installation at Bldg. 5700 and Lyster Army Health Clinic to help inform and educate the public about suicide prevention.

Although September is officially Suicide Prevention Month, Dunlap said it’s important to keep the topic fresh on people’s minds at all times.

“If it’s in your mind year round, you’re just much more aware of what’s going on with those around you, and you’re aware of what people say and how they’re acting,” she said. “We don’t want you to wait until September to have to say, ‘Oh, I had a friend that really was going through something but I didn’t help out.’”

For more information or to register for the show, call 255-7010.

This article was originally published at

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