21st TSC members participate in suicide prevention training

Story by Angelika Lantz
21st TSC Public Affairs

Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
That is one of the things the 21st Theater Sustainment Command hopes its Soldiers and civilians will take away from the suicide prevention and intervention training held at the theater on Kleber Kaserne.

In light of rising suicide rates in the Army and in response to a directive by the chief of staff of the Army, the 21st TSC conducted a suicide prevention training stand-down March 5 and 9.

Attendance was mandatory for Soldiers and Army civilian employees.
“A lot of DA civilians are former military and come from a culture where ‘manly men’ did not admit to any type of mental anguish,” said Capt. Ramon Torres, the commander of the 21st TSC’s 147th Postal Company. “And we can’t deny that there still is a stigma associated with seeking mental health care in the military. That’s why it’s very important that we reach as many people as possible with this training,”
The 21st TSC used the interactive suicide prevention training video “Beyond the Front.”

As each real-life and war-time vignette unfolded, the audience had to choose the next step to best help the Soldier in distress.

Incorrect options would have led to the Soldier taking his life.
“The video reminded me of a lot of situations I have encountered as a Soldier and as a chaplain,” said Lt. Col. William McCoy, 21st TSC deputy command chaplain. “With our nation at war for more than seven years now and our profession as hazardous as it is, we need to realize that there are many unique stressors. We have to be able to see the flags, the warning signs.”

The video, like the training, focuses on reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health care, increasing awareness of the risk factors and warning signs and demonstrating how to seek help.

“By showing our fellow Soldiers and civilians that we truly care, we can create
a wonderful caring work environment,”

said Col. Thomas MacGregor, 21st TSC command chaplain.
The role of leadership and the importance of responsibility also play key roles.
“We all have the responsibility of looking out for our battle buddies,” said Capt. Randy Brooks, 21st TSC HHC commander.

The second phase of the program will run until June 15.
The training comes after a spike in suicides in the Army during the last four years, which is troubling because Army suicide rates tend to be lower than the average suicide rate for male civilians in the same age group.

According to an Army press release, there were 128 confirmed and 15 probable suicides last year, which is up from 115 in 2007.
Additionally, the Army has confirmed seven suicides and is investigating 19 other deaths so far this year.