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Help readily available to prevent suicides

Traci Dunlap, ASAP suicide prevention manager, sets up a table display at Bldg. 5700 Sept. 9 with pamphlets and information to help educate people on suicide prevention and where they can seek help. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Traci Dunlap, ASAP suicide prevention manager, sets up a table display at Bldg. 5700 Sept. 9 with pamphlets and information to help educate people on suicide prevention and where they can seek help. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: September 12, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 12, 2014) -- September is Suicide Prevention Month and the Army is doing its best to get the word out about suicide prevention, but Army Substance Abuse Program officials say the first line of defense starts with people.

Although suicides in the Army are down from the same time last year, it’s still important that people keep a lookout for signs of suicidal ideations in fellow Soldiers, coworkers, Family members or anyone in their daily lives, said Traci Dunlap, ASAP suicide prevention manager.

Ask, Care, Escort is the Army’s standard when it comes to suicide prevention, and it’s the standard that is taught every year during ACE intervention training courses, she said.

“We ask that those who are witnessing others in need ask about thoughts of suicide, care for their buddy, friend or Family member as best they can without putting themselves at risk,” said Dunlap. “Always stay with the person who is at risk as much as you can, then escort them to behavioral health, their chain of command or the chaplain, or call 911 if necessary.”

One of the biggest issues with suicide prevention is a bystander issue, said the suicide prevention manager.

“Oftentimes, people will tell me that they’re not a counselor or a social worker and that they’re not equipped to deal with the situation,” she said. “That’s why a lot of times people feel they need to stay out of other people’s business … and they don’t feel like they are qualified to get involved.”

Dunlap said the worst thing a person can do is ignore the situation when they notice someone showing signs of suicidal ideations, which can include depression, angry outbursts, talking about suicide and even substance abuse.

Being a bystander is not an excuse, she said, adding that people don’t have to get directly involved if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.

“If, for whatever reason, you truly don’t feel comfortable addressing the issue yourself, take it to your immediate supervisor,” said Dunlap. “If it’s a Family member, then take it to someone who is close to that person who you think can approach it.

“I can’t emphasize enough to let it be known if you see something that doesn’t seem right,” she continued. “If you let it be known, then the supervisor can pay closer attention and see if there is something to be concerned about, and can then approach it from their direction. That way, everybody feels a little more comfortable.”

Not speaking up about an issue can have far worse consequences than feeling uncomfortable about a situation, said the suicide prevention manager.

“We see all sorts of workplace violence issues that come up every day. The issues that flare up may not even have anything to do with the workplace, but the anger and frustration that the person feels could bleed out into the workplace,” she said. “You never know how much worse the situation might get later on, and left alone, issues that go unnoticed or unreported could result in suicides and even homicides.

“We’re not exempt from those types of things happening here,” Dunlap continued. “People joke about this being lower Alabama and how quiet it is here on post, but we need to be very aware of those things and pass it on. That person may be too embarrassed to say that they’re having an issue, so if you can just nudge them along and tell them what they can do to make it better or get the information for their issue, then we could possibly resolve the issue before it bubbles up and gets 10 times worse than it needs to be.”

Fort Rucker has many services and programs to help with people having suicide ideations, including the Family Advocacy Program, ASAP, Army Community Service and even the Chaplains office.

Those who can seek help are not only limited to active-duty Soldiers, but Fort Rucker’s civilian workforce is also eligible for help at behavioral health if they are showing signs of suicidal ideations, said Dunlap.

“It’s very important they know that they can get that safety assessment and the help they need to get to a more stable place here at behavioral health, and then they’ll be able to get the appropriate referrals beyond that,” she said. “Never send a civilian off post. If they are having those ideations during the workday, they can come to us and get that help in that moment rather than sending them away.”

But there are some who may not be ready to talk to someone face-to-face, said Dunlap, and for those individuals, there are still resources available to them that they can take advantage of anonymously.

People can always call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255, or visit to chat anonymously about their suicidal ideations.

“If you just really can’t muster up the strength to talk to a person, there are so many ways that allow you to reach out and get the help you need,” said the suicide prevention manager. “Just click and talk online with someone, and still get the help you need, but anonymously.”

Dunlap said it’s important that people realize that they’re not alone in these feelings and that people are here to support them if they make the decision to move forward and seek help.

“Nobody is going to judge you or think differently of you because you are just one of hundreds of people who need to step forward and get that help,” she said. “When someone feels alone, that’s when someone is most at risk.”

Dunlap suggests making those people who are at risk included by pulling them into the group and making them feel connected to others.

For more information, call 255-7010.

This article was originally published at

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