During Suicide Prevention Month, learn how to "BE A LIGHT" to someone who looks up to you by sharing struggles you have navigated.
BE A LIGHT: Sustain a Life of Someone You Know
As September dawns, the world turns its attention to a critical issue that affects all of us – suicide prevention. This month, USAG Fort Belvoir, the installation’s tenant agencies and individuals come together to raise awareness, offer support, and promote vital resources to combat the alarming statistics associated with suicide. With mental health remaining a key concern, Suicide Prevention Month takes center stage, uniting us all in a common mission: saving lives.
An Epidemic Demands Attention
Doryan Dixon, Fort Belvoir’s Army Substance Abuse Program Alcohol and Drug Control Officer, said although this is suicide prevention month, saving lives is a year-round effort.
“Fort Belvoir’s Suicide Prevention Program is working to install a cultural change within our community and the Army, by directly linking personal resilience to readiness and responsibility,” Dixon said. “I invite you to be vocal and show your support by participating in our Suicide Prevention Month activities. Encourage loved ones to seek help to enhance readiness and resilience.”
Doryan Dixon, Fort Belvoir Army Substance Abuse Program Alcohol and Drug Control Officer
Suicide continues to be a pressing public health issue, transcending boundaries of age, gender, ethnicity, and economic status. According to the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, the number of suicides across active-duty military increased from 75 in the first quarter of 2022 to 94 in the first quarter of 2023, but the report advised to be wary of trying to interpret that data.
“Caution should be used when making comparisons across groups and/or interpreting changes in suicide counts across time because counts do not account for changes in population size,” the report warned. “Rates account for differences in populations sizes; and, as such, provide a more standardized way to make comparisons over time or across groups.”
That said, the Army experienced the highest increase in suicides, with 49 service members dying by suicide in the first quarter of this year.
Suicide Prevention Month is a reminder about the importance of conversations about mental health, reducing stigma, and offering a safe, compassionate environment for those struggling with thoughts of suicide. Post-pandemic, the need for these conversations is even more pronounced, as isolation and uncertainty made mental health vulnerabilities even worse.
Fort Belvoir Observance Sept. 12
Tuesday, September 12, there will be special observance at the Woodlawn Chapel Annex: “You are the Light in Somebody’s Life,” featuring COL Liquori Etheridge, director of Psychological Health, Medical Readiness Command, East. Etheridge will provide an overview of the issues and ways you can inspire others to seek help. There will also be a Q&A session on Behavioral Health, concluding with a proclamation signing by Doryan Dixon, Dr. John Moeller, Deputy to the Garrison Commander, and COL Elba Villacorta, director, A.T. Augusta Military Medical Center.
There will also be numerous events and initiatives held at installation sites, including a display at the Post Exchange, to educate communities about the warning signs of suicide and the importance of seeking help and awareness campaigns to equip individuals with the tools to identify when someone might be in crisis.
Advocacy is a pivotal aspect of the movement, with individuals and organizations rallying for improved mental health services, accessible resources, and reminding everyone it is ok to ask for help. Sharing your personal stories of resilience and recovery can inspire others around you to seek assistance and remind them that they are not alone in their struggles.
In the digital age, technology provides new avenues for support and intervention. Hotlines, crisis chat services, and mental health apps offer accessible resources for those who might hesitate to seek help in person. Moreover, social media platforms provide spaces for dialogue, offering a virtual support network where individuals can find encouragement and understanding. A new digital tool is the ability to call or text 988 for immediate assistance.
Your Role in Raising Awareness
Your role is crucial in amplifying the message of Suicide Prevention Month. By sharing your past struggles and how you moved beyond it, you have the power to not only inform but inspire change. You can showcase the dedication of military and community organizations in supporting mental health, as well as spotlighting the stories of resilience from individuals who have navigated their way out of the darkness.
Dedicate this month as a call to be a voice for those who are struggling, a source of comfort for those grieving, and a beacon of hope for a world united against the devastating impact of suicide. Here are five ways you can be a light in somebody’s life:
- ASK “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
- KEEP THEM SAFE by reducing access to lethal items or places.
- BE THERE by listening to and learning about what the individual is thinking and feeling.
- HELP THEM CONNECT to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number and the Crisis Text Line number at 741741.
- STAY CONNECTED after a crisis. Remember to Ask, Care, Escort
By joining hands, hearts, and voices, we can all make a difference that resonates far beyond September, creating a society where each life is valued and cherished.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is standing by at 800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
By Paul Lara, Fort Belvoir Public Affairs Specialist