SAN FRANCISCO - "Being bold" was the message to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees during suicide prevention training last week in San Francisco.
"We are asking that you put your antennas up," said Lt. Col. Dann Ettner, deputy command chaplain of the 63rd Regional Support Command at Moffett Field, Calif. "Be bold in asking the question, 'Are you thinking of killing yourself?'"
With a spike in suicides this year, the Army is asking its soldiers and civilians to find the courage to speak up. In September, it ordered a service-wide "stand-down" day to bring the subject of suicide to the forefront.
On Oct. 11, more than 200 employees from the Corps' South Pacific Division and San Francisco District gathered to listen to the 63rd RSC chaplain and other Bay Area healthcare professionals speak on the issues of suicide.
"We have to not be afraid to get into other people's lives and be that person that cares," said Ettner. "That's something we are all capable of doing--caring for someone else."
Jeanette Longtin, a psychological health expert, works with Ettner at the 63rd RSC. She meets regularly with soldiers who suffer from severe mental health issues, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Longtin said that most people who are suicidal do give warning signs, such as withdrawal, changes in personality, anxiety and increased alcohol and/or drug use.
"If you see something that's atypical for somebody else or you are noticing in yourself that things are not quite right, that's the time to speak up and say, 'I need help' or 'Let's get you the help you need,'" she said during her presentation.
The mentality that the situation will eventually get better on its own is never the solution, she added.
"Very often people are waiting way too long to get the help they need. By the time I see them, many have been suffering for years," she said. "That can also happen in the civilian world as well, where you just don't know where to go for help."
One of the resources available to Corps employees is the Employee Assistance Program offered by Human Health Associates. The program provides no-cost confidential counseling services to employees dealing with everyday stressors.
"Oftentimes, we run into situations where we don't have an immediate answer. We feel like we need someone outside ourselves to help us cope," said Dr. James Wallace, president of HBA, during his remarks.
Other representatives from the American Heart Association, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Kaiser Foundation and Federal Occupational Health were on hand following the three-hour training to talk with employees and answer questions.
With each healthcare provider, the message was clear. When it comes to suicide, nobody should feel alone.