2018-09-28 / Chaplain's News

Recognizing and stopping the threat of suicide

Chaplain (Capt.) Loren “Greg” Sink
442nd Signal Battalion

Pain and loss are often temporary. However, suicide is always final and permanent! Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide is not simply an issue in the month of September but year-round.

Suicide is not simply a military issue but a human issue that needs to be addressed. One suicide death is one too many. Death by suicide is generally a devastating loss to any family, organization or community who experiences it.

Tragically, death by self-harm is one of the leading causes of death in all too many countries across the globe. The threat of suicide can be recognized and prevented. Following are some tips regarding how to recognize someone is at risk, how to intervene, care and then escort them for additional, longer term support. From Living Works, the creator of Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training in Canada, we learn that two common themes at work in the lives of the at-risk are a sense of loss and pain; and those two themes often go hand-in-hand.

Significant losses in one’s life often result in pain that can be experienced in various aspects of life (i.e. physical, emotional, relational, etc.). And different types of pain generally come from losses in diverse aspects of one’s life.

Extensive research indicates that those who are at risk of suicide do not totally want to die but do want the pain to stop. They are caught in a place of ambiguity and torn between life and death. Life that was worth living is now a thing of the past. When they consider the future all they can see is unbearable pain!

One should also look at those experiencing significant pain and loss for other signs that can indicate they may be at risk of suicide.

These can include physical: either weight gain or loss, looking depressed or angry, disheveled, or being in physical pain; verbal: expressing intense, negative emotions like anger, betrayal or depression, making statements like “it will not be long and this will all be over,” or “you know, I think my family would be better without me;” emotional: they are exuding or expressing strong negative emotions via facial expressions, body language, etc.; behavioral: they are sleeping every chance they get or hardly at all, they have lost interest and/or pleasure in doing things they typically enjoy and/or abusing drugs.

Coupling a sense of pain and loss with other indicators in one or more of the above areas of life can be painting an increasingly clear picture that someone is at risk. If so, it behooves the person positioned to be a caregiver to ask them, “Are you thinking about committing suicide?” Research strongly suggests that if a person is in fact at risk and he or she is asked the question clearly, there is a better chance that he or she will disclose that. Ideally, being willing to intervene can lead to opportunities for the “at risk” to open and share and alleviate their pain and sense of isolation.

Recognizing someone is at risk, asking “the question,” and listening to their story of pain can make a great contribution towards meeting their greatest needs, restoring hope and ultimately preserving their life until they can be escorted to someone much more well equipped to provide them with longer term care! They can be escorted to the chaplain, Emergency Room, Behavioral Health, Aid Station or to leadership in the chain of command.

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