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(Enlarge) Col. Edward C. Rothstein, Garrison Commander

COMMANDERS COLUMN

The Army has declared September Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and is directing a servicewide suicide stand-down on Sept. 27.

Fort Meade will conduct its stand-down day on Wednesday. The theme for the stand-down is "Shoulder to Shoulder, We Stand Up for Life."

Like many others, I believe suicides are preventable. But combating suicides effectively will require comprehensive solutions aimed at helping individuals find ways to build resiliency and strengthen their coping skills.

We all have a role in preventing suicides. It starts with knowing the warning signs that a service member, family member or friend may need help and ends with assisting that individual to get the help needed.

I am determined to promote and build wellness and resiliency programs that meet the demand of Fort Meade service members and their families. I want all service members and their families to know about behaviorial health services and support options available on post.

These services include:

* Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center: The Behavioral Health division provides confidential, individual counseling for active-duty service members.

* Religious Services Office: The installation's five chaplains provide confidential counseling for the Fort Meade community and lead religious services throughout the week for nine distinctive faiths.

* Army Community Service: The installation provides a wide range of support groups for service members and their families at the Community Readiness Center. They range from a support group for single parents and a group for expectant fathers to support groups for families dealing with deployment.

* ACS and the Fleet & Family Support Center: Both offer classes in stress and anger management, effective communications and personal finances at the Community Readiness Center.

It's important that we talk about suicide prevention and emphasize the Army's commitment to raise awareness and understanding of the effort required to successfully eliminate suicides within the military family and find ways to encourage individuals who need help to use the support services available to assist our total well-being and resiliency.

It's also important for the entire Fort Meade community, inside and outside the gates, to know and believe that everyone can help prevent suicide.

Our local communities have a strong history of supporting service members and their families. We need to continue to work together and make sure we are taking care of ourselves and each other.

As a community, we need to remain committed to the health, safety and well-being of our service members, civilian employees and our families. It's important we continue to review activities that help keep each of us resilient and take steps to make sure suicide prevention has a place in what we do every day.

We should all know how to recognize common risk factors including chronic pain; feelings of guilt, anger, or shame; exposure to trauma; a sense of hopelessness; relationship problems; and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

If you notice these behaviors in your friends, a service member or a family member, please encourage them to seek help.

Our goal should be to not let service members, families or a friend struggle alone. We can all make a big difference in the life of someone needing help.

Preventing suicides requires courage and, often, personal sacrifice as the intervention process may require a lot of time. The bottom line is, we can't afford to lose one life to suicide.

Working together, I know we can make a difference to help prevent suicides.

Editor's Note: For more information about suicide prevention, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org, or contact Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647 or militaryonesource.com.

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