(Photo by the Department of Defense)

By Young J. Hwang, USAG Bavaria Suicide Prevention Program Manager

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — At the beginning of this year, a pandemic of a highly contagious new strain of coronavirus, named COVID-19, fundamentally altered the day-to-day lives of individuals around the world. You are now required to wash or sanitize your hands prior to entering a building, wear a face mask and maintain a distance of a minimum of six feet from other individuals. The way we operate daily is part of a new norm, as we continue our war with this invisible enemy. With a recent increase in cases, it is imperative that we continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and support the global effort in finding a Covid-19 vaccine to alleviate the rising number of coronavirus-related deaths. 

Less prominently discussed, but nevertheless just as devastating, there is another invisible enemy the world has been combating with for centuries — suicide. This specific enemy delivers indescribable pain, heartache and incessant grief. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, suicide is defined as “the action of killing oneself intentionally,” or “being or performing a deliberate act resulting in the voluntary death of the person.” Approximately 800,000 people worldwide die by suicide per year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the United States, one person completes a suicide every 16.2 minutes, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). There is no vaccine or ultimate cure to annihilate suicide; however, not all suicide thoughts have to end with death. Suicide is preventable, and with appropriate measures and actions, the world can prevent, reduce and combat suicide.

The act of suicide may be challenging for us to comprehend, as suicide is a complex problem. There is no one single explanation that triggers this behavior. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared that 54 percent of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. They reported that contributing factors relating to suicide include the following (see figure 1). 

How are these factors relevant to USAG Bavaria? According to the Unit Risk Inventory (URI), an anonymous survey administered at USAG Bavaria in CY2019 revealed that 12 percent of those surveyed reported experiencing suicidal ideations. Out of that 12 percent, 37 percent reported having a plan. Of those 37 percent, 36 percent reported to having actually attempted suicide. In addition, these are the risks and warning signs associated with suicidal behavior (see figure 2).

These identified risk factors are a key to preventing suicide when combined with appropriate intervention measures. September is National Suicide Awareness Month, which highlights suicide prevention efforts by advocating for prevention strategies and networking to share resources and education. Connectedness, the theme for this year’s DoD Suicide Prevention Month, will be shared by the hashtag #BeThere. We can be a key participant in preventing suicide by connecting with the family, friends, community and resources that can play a vital role in preventing suicide. The Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) has taken an innovative approach this year to further prevent suicide by collaborating with the Noncommissioned Officer Academy (NCOA). With support from the 7th ATC and NCOA Command Teams, Suicide Prevention Awareness Training for Leaders was implemented in July 2020. 

What can we as a USAG Bavaria community member do to prevent suicide? What steps are you willing to take to prevent suicide? Here are three suggestions from ASAP: 

1. Follow the guidelines of the Army-approved suicide prevention and awareness training model: Ask, Care, Escort (ACE). It only takes a minute to:

  • ASK – Ask the question directly: Are you thinking of killing yourself? Have the courage to ask the question.
  • CARE – Actively listen with understanding. Remove any means that could be used for self-injury. Calmly control the situation. Do not use force. Be safe.
  • ESCORT – Escort them to a Chaplain, behavioral health professional, primary care provider, Military Police and the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (00800-1273-8255 – or DSN 118). Never leave them alone.

2. Participate in Suicide Prevention Awareness Month Social Media Challenges (1-Minute Burpee and/or Photo) and other scheduled events in the month of September. Then challenge at least one other person to help spread awareness about suicide and resources. If you participate and upload a video or photo on Facebook using #BeThereBavaria, you will be entered into a raffle to win a prize which will be announced on 1 October 2020.

3.  Challenge yourself to think about what changes you will implement to prevent suicide starting today. 

ASAP collaborated with 15 other agencies in the community collectively to design various events to impact the USAG Bavaria community hoping to target, reduce and/or eliminate death by suicide. One suicide is too many. Let’s connect together, be a resource and #BeThere for someone who may be struggling with suicide. If you or anyone is struggling with suicidal ideation, you are not alone. Please reach out and get help by calling the Suicide Prevention Hotline: 09641-83-118, DSN 118 or click here for local resources.


ACE Suicide Intervention Card 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Defense Suicide Prevention Office. 2019 Suicide Prevention Month

Gould et al (2013), Suicide Prevention Resource Center

World Health Organization. “Suicide Prevention”

Categories: Health & Lifestyle News