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I am writing to ask all of us to act to prevent suicide and help ensure the health of our force. When we are engaged in combat missions, we fight together as teams to defeat our enemies, accomplish the mission and protect our fellow Soldiers. Leaders must know your Soldiers, identify warning signs, ensure that seeking assistance is not stigmatized, and intervene when necessary. Each Soldier suicide is a tragedy for our country and our Army Family.
Suicide, a problem across American society, poses a severe threat to our Army. In July alone, we lost thirty-eight Soldiers to suicide. To accomplish the mission of preventing suicide and ensuring the health of the force, we must rely on one another just as we do in combat operations. Battle buddies must look out for one another. Leaders must know their Soldiers the best and care the most. In addition to fostering unit cohesion, NCOs and junior officers, must be sensitive to warning signs such as substance abuse, financial distress, relationship problems, signs of social disconnection, distractibility, suspiciousness of friends, irritability and inconsistency. Control of stress is a command responsibility. Effective leadership is critical to managing stress in Soldiers and Army Families. Pay particular attention to sponsorship, welcoming, and integration of new Soldiers and families. Reinforce unit cohesion and the chain of command every day.
Perhaps most important, encourage each other to seek assistance for matters pertaining to our psychological, ethical, and spiritual readiness. There is no stigma associated with seeking assistance. It is a sign of strength and responsibility; building psychological resiliency and readiness is the same as building physical readiness or proficiency in combat skills.
Fort Bennings Suicide Prevention Stand Down on September 27 will provide leaders with an opportunity to educate and train our teams to ensure resiliency; identify risk factors and warning signs; look out for each other; and act when we identify a fellow Soldier who needs assistance.
Suicide prevention is all of our responsibility.
One Force, One Fight!
Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster Commanding general