CHARLESTON, W.Va. --
Each year, we take the month of September to pay special attention to mental health and emphasize the programs in place to prevent suicides within our force. This time is an important reminder of the struggles that our Guardsmen and women face, and what we can do together to prevent the loss of one of our own.
In this past year, three service members have chosen death by suicide. The number is both staggering and sobering for our organization. Suicide is never the answer.
Life in the Guard can be tough. The stresses of balancing deployments, annual and monthly training with civilian work, and family life can be overwhelming to even the best of us. Add additional stressors on top of that to include a pandemic, loss of jobs, school uncertainties and lack of social interactions and it can become even more overwhelming.
Prevention training isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for stopping suicide in the Guard. We must dedicate ourselves to maintaining a careful watch on our brothers and sisters in uniform. As leaders, each of us need to take time to recognize the signs of struggle in those around us, and in ourselves, and to take appropriate actions to assist when we can.
While our military culture often requires us to maintain stoic discipline and resolve, we must not be afraid to offer help to those around us or to reach out for help ourselves when we need it. Sometimes, the bravest and strongest thing we can do is to ask for help.
As we observe Suicide Prevention Month, we must actively work every day to fulfill our collective responsibility to watch out for each other and to take care of one another.
We must remember that the decision we make not only affect us, but also impact our family and friends forever!
The West Virginia National Guard has myriad programs and people dedicated to assisting Guardsmen and their families through difficult times. Our goal is for every Soldier and Airman to have the resources to make it through and know that he or she is not alone – whether that be financial issues, relationship problems, difficulties at school or work, and especially military-related issues. Please reach out to any of these resources, your chain of command, a friend or coworker, or anyone you feel comfortable with to seek help.
Crisis Text Line – 741-741
Veterans and Military Crisis Line – 1-800-273-8255
WVARNG Resilience, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention (R3SP) Program – 304-561-6817
Family Programs – 304-561-6480 or 1-866-986-4326
Financial Counselor – 304-561-6784
WVARNG Chaplain – 304-561-6490
SAPR – 304-561-6681 or 304-543-0573
DoD SAFE Hotline – 877-995-5247
Military OneSource – 1-800-342-9647