A genuine conversation about suicide

by Mark Heeter
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

“Do you need this card?” Lisa Velez asked in a barely audible voice.

“It should be normal,” she said, when discussing the oft-perceived taboo topic of suicide and the Army’s Ask, Care, Escort card. “Let’s step away from whispering and have a genuine conversation.”

Velez, the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern suicide prevention program manager, said the time for a “genuine conversation” about suicide is now — at the outset of the summer months, which are notoriously the peak season for suicide attempts.

“We want to be proactive, and not reactive,” she said. “We want to look at what those risk factors are and address those.”

To keep an active conversation afloat, Soldiers with the garrison’s Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program handed out crisis hotline cards at entrance gates on garrison installations June 22.

“It’s about promoting those things that are going to help you take care of yourself,” Velez said of the push for suicide prevention awareness and the cards, which contained the overseas military crisis hotline, at 00800-1273-8255.
She calls it a mission of one.

“If it’s just one person that utilizes that number (on the card) — just one person that was in some version of a crisis — and reduces the likelihood that they’re going to attempt suicide, that’s a success,” she said.

Chris Lavin, a counselor with the garrison Army Substance Abuse Program, said one particular command was there for a Soldier who had attempted suicide.

“They de-stigmatized it by saying, ‘If you get into trouble, we’re there for you,’” Lavin said.

“They were aware that this goes on, they were aware that we have to have immediate resources to put into play to protect the rest of the Soldiers that are affected by this behavior,” he said.

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