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Army Chaplains help others take small steps to save lives

By Leanne Thomas 5th Medical Recruiting Battalion

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Every year, the Department of Defense observes the month of September as Suicide Prevention Month and this year’s theme is “Small steps save lives!”

“Taking a small step means recognizing and responding to the signs of a person who is at-risk for a suicidal crisis,” explained the U.S. Army Medical Recruiting Brigade Chaplain Capt. William Yi. “And you care about these signs and that person.”

U.S. Army chaplains play an important role in suicide prevention efforts across the Army and are a great support to the Army’s Suicide Prevention Program.

“I always say the suicide prevention program is a ‘first-aid’ program,” Yi said. “If a person is drowning, you may not know how to perform CPR, but you can go to the Red Cross and take training that will help you be comfortable doing CPR. That’s the suicide prevention program. With training, you are better able to identify the warning signs of a suicidal crisis and know how to respond to that.”

Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change of behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs.

“Studies show that more than 90 percent of people who commit suicide send the signal, ‘I need help,’” Yi added.

“In the Army, you can apply a tourniquet to stop the bleeding … and you can take a 30-minute training to learn this … You will not perform the surgery, but you noticed signs of distress and you responded. The suicide prevention program is the same thing,” Yi reiterated.

After responding to a suicidal crisis, an Army chaplain is one of the many resources available to assist by serving as a “gatekeeper” and offering pastoral counseling. “There is also behavioral health, the suicide hotline or just call 911,” Yi explained.

Chaplains are also trained to have an awareness of cultural differences. They understand people of different cultures and walks-of-life can differ in the way they experience and react to adversities.

“I studied intercultural studies and, in the Army, there are a lot of different cultures and backgrounds and I think the Army is perfect for that. I just think it is a great opportunity to respond to my calling,” Yi added.

As Suicide Prevention Month ends, the 5th Medical Recruiting Battalion would like to encourage others to remember that, “Small steps save lives” all year long.

Something as simple as saying, “Let’s talk.” or asking, “Why are you acting like that?” is a great way to take that “small step.”