REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (WHNT) – Thursday morning, there was a stand-down on Redstone Arsenal as members of the military met to discuss what they call “an enemy within the lines — inside the wire” — suicide.
It’s claiming lives at an alarming rate and it may have nothing to do with time served in a war zone.
Now 12 years in, the war in Afghanistan has claimed thousands of U.S. troops killed by the enemy. But Thursday morning, US Army leaders discussed another enemy they blame for killing one soldier a day — suicide.
“It’s a faceless enemy,” said Major General Lynn Collyar. “If you knew who it was, you would get them help and take care of them and that’s why we’ve got to get back to personal interactions — the things that will allow us to see that somebody is really having a problem.”
Collyar pointed to the anti-social side of social media as one reason signs of trouble often go unnoticed.
He spoke to a suicide stand-down training seminar at Redstone Arsenal on Thursday morning, aimed at bringing awareness of the problem and possible solutions.
“It’s something we have to face,” said Collyar. “It’s a different type of enemy.”
He said with soldiers assigned to individual rooms, emailing, texting, and Tweeting, there’s much less face-to-face interaction with other people than ever before.
“Verbal communication is the easiest opportunity to see that somebody’s having, that’s something’s wrong and to be able to act upon it,” said Collyar.
He said the issue is hitting home in north Alabama, with 30 deaths over the last four years within the Army Materiel Command.
He said he receives a notice each time a soldier does it, and he’s noticed one common factor.
“Suicide is hitting us in all ranks, all ages, deployed or not deployed. It really has to do with other things and we think it’s transitions in their life,” said Collyar. “In some means in their life, whether it be a family situation, a move, a change of job, which we routinely do in the military.”
The hope is that with awareness and resources to prevent suicide, there will be fewer casualties.
Collyar also noted that stigmas attached to seeking help for mental problems remains an issue, perceived as something that would put promotions or career advancement within the military in jeopardy. However, he said the stigma of shame and intolerance that used to be linked to suicide in the past in America now seems to have been lifted.