SANDSTON, Va. — The Virginia National Guard is encouraging its members to check in on their battle buddies and wingmen Dec. 16, 2015, to make sure they are doing well and help them find resources if they are experiencing hardship or in crisis. As part of the initiative, Soldiers and Airmen should call, text or make plans to get together to catch up on what’s going on each other’s lives. They can also show their support by posting on social media with the #VaGuardBuddyCheck hashtag.
Join the event on Facebook by visiting https://www.facebook.com/events/326800567443588/.
“The holidays can be a difficult time of increased stress both in our personal and professional lives, so we should be looking out for each other to make sure we have those stresses under control and can get help if needed,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “We have many resources available to anyone who needs them, so we need to work together to get anyone in need pointed in the right direction. Leaders at every level must create a climate where our Soldiers and Airmen know it is okay to reach out and ask for help if they need it.”
As part of the National Guard’s “Health of the Force” effort, Soldiers and Airmen are encouraged to ask about how their battle buddy or wingman are doing, as well as asking about the welfare of their families and those they serve with closely in their unit.
“The number one way to notice risk factors, warning signs, and changes in behavior associated with suicide is to know your buddy or wingman,” said Cheyenne Facchina, Virginia National Guard suicide prevention program manager. “They could be at risk because of relationship problems, financial issues or substance abuse, not only because of stresses related to combat duty or deployment.”
It is also important to take seriously any of the warnings signs and get help immediately, she said.
If you own a smart phone, the Guard Ready app has listings for mental health providers and other specialists in all 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia, said Army Capt. Brian Pennington, the Suicide Prevention Program coordinator with the National Guard Bureau.
“One thing that we found, a commonality, is that most Soldiers don’t know where these resources are actually located,” said Pennington. “So, having this centrally located app gives Soldiers the ability to say ‘hey, I’m having some problems, where can I go to get the help I need?'”
While there may be other, similar apps available, the Guard Ready app is tailored to those in the Guard and offers other features to simplify access to help. For more information about the app and links to download for your device, visit http://go.usa.gov/cZZtY.
A full ist of resources is available at the Virginia Army National Guard’s Resilience, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Program, also known as R3SP, web page at http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/r3sp/.
The Virginia National Guard has Family Assistance Centers located throughout the state that are considered one-stop assistance for those who need services and support. Through partnerships with agencies such as Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, the Red Cross and other local and national organizations and working closely with military personnel such as chaplains, commanders, JAG Officers and volunteers, the Family Assistance Center Specialists are able to provide the very best assistance possible.
Some of the areas in which a FAC staff can provide assistance includes but is not limited to; TRICARE, DEERS, ID Cards, financial and legal assistance, Community Outreach/referral and Crisis Intervention and referral.
For more information about Family Assistance Centers, visit http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/fac/ or call the 24-hour Hotline at 1-800-542-4028.
If you feel like your buddy or wingman expresses feelings of suicide, call the Suicide Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) military press 1 to get help.
Suicide Prevention: Warning Signs & Risk Factors
When a Soldier or Airman presents with any combination of the following, the buddy or chain of command should be more vigilant. It is advised that help should be secured for the Soldier.
- Talk of suicide or killing someone else
- Giving away property or disregard for what happens to one’s property
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Problems with girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse
- Acting bizarre or unusual (based on your knowledge of the person)
- Soldiers in trouble for misconduct (Art-15, UCMJ, etc.)
- Soldiers experiencing financial problems
- Soldiers who have lost their job at home (reservists)
- Those soldiers leaving the service (retirements, ETSs, etc.)
When a Soldier or Airman presents with any one of these concerns, they should be seen immediately by a helping provider.
- Talking or hinting about suicide
- Formulating a plan to include acquiring the means to kill oneself
- Having a desire to die
- Obsession with death (music, poetry, artwork)
- Themes of death in letters and notes
- Finalizing personal affairs
- Giving away personal possessions
Risk factors are those things that increase the probability that difficulties could result in serious adverse behavioral or physical health. The risk factors only raise the risk of an individual being suicidal it does not mean they are suicidal.
The risk factors often associated with suicidal behavior include:
- Relationship problems (loss of girlfriend/boyfriend, divorce, etc.)
- History of previous suicide attempts
- Substance abuse
- History of depression or other mental illness
- Family history of suicide or violence
- Work related problems
- Transitions (retirement, PCS, discharge, etc.)
- A serious medical problem
- Significant loss (death of loved one, loss due to natural disasters, etc.)
- Current/pending disciplinary or legal action
- Setbacks (academic, career, or personal)
- Severe, prolonged, and/or perceived unmanageable stress
- A sense of powerlessness, helplessness, and/or hopelessness
Additional reporting by By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, National Guard Bureau