by Kerstin Lopez
The Resiliency and Suicide Awareness Forum held Sept. 1 at McMahon Auditorium kicked off the month-long campaign to educate the Mountain Post community about suicide.
The Department of Defense designated September as “Army Suicide Prevention Month.” Suicides among Soldiers have risen to unprecedented levels and represent a clear threat to the cohesiveness and mission readiness of the
U.S. Army, said Deon Cobasky, Fort Carson suicide prevention program manager.
“Suicide Prevention Month is used to disseminate information, provide education and training, and decrease stigmatization not only surrounding the act of suicide and suicidal behavior, but also reaching for assistance during difficult times,” Cobasky said.
Brig. Gen. James H. Doty, acting senior commander, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, said post leaders have taken steps to combat the issue and to spread awareness by using a triad of primary care physicians, embedded behavioral health personnel and leadership.
“The team approach works … I think when you have engaged and caring leaders that are working with the adequate and well-trained medical professionals that we have — that makes a difference,” Doty said.
Behavioral health professionals attached to units offer Soldiers an easier and more confidential way to solicit help if needed. In addition, first-line supervisors and junior leaders are more aware of the signs of suicide and can intervene quicker if a problem arises, Doty said.
“They are spending as much time looking at the holistic view of the well-being of that Soldier as they are about their training schedules,” he said.
Cobasky said suicide is a community issue and Fort Carson is using resilience as a preventative method to help individuals mitigate their own stressors.
“Resilience is not a one-size-fits-all, because each person deals with stress in their own way.
Fort Carson is using collaborative efforts to assist individuals in building resilience,” Cobasky said.
“I think we have destigmatized a lot of the problems that were early on in the war. It’s not a career killer anymore to admit that you’re having a problem, and I think that makes a world of difference as well,” Doty said. “The Army is trying to adopt a philosophy where, just like the physical fitness of a Soldier (where) we focus on building their strengths physically, we are trying to build them emotionally and mentally.”
“We try to get after it through a multidisciplinary approach involving the leaders,” Doty said.
“I think we’re tracking, we’re never perfect, but we want to get better and we have a great team here at Fort Carson.”
Awareness is geared toward Soldiers, Family members, civilians and others that make up the
Fort Carson community including veterans and retirees, Cobasky said.
To increase awareness and emphasize prevention of suicide in the Fort Carson community, a variety of events are scheduled throughout the month of September. Information booths will be set up at the post exchange Tuesday through Friday and at the commissary Saturday. The Race Against Suicide run/walk will be held Sept. 25 at the El Pomar Youth Sports
Park at 8 a.m.; register online at http://runreg.com. The month will end with a Connect and Thrive Community Social event Sept. 29 at The Hub from 4-6 p.m.; reservations are required, call 526-8747.