14 Aug

“Let’s not lose another soldier”… Major General Mark Graham’s ACE suicide prevention program.

                                       

The comment thread about the loss of one of Flopping Aces’ own, Maj. Chris Galloway, has all of us doing some head scratching as to what we can do as individuals. This sense of helplessness, *after* the loss, is simply not acceptable.

Wordsmith did provide some extra insight in his remembrance of Chris with a YouTube link, but I felt that Major General Mark Graham – Commander, Division West and Fort Carson, Colo – and his suicide prevention program needs to be broadened with a grassroots movement.

Below is the ACE card given to military members.. ASK, CARE and ESCORT. It’s an action plan when you see one of our warriors in trouble.

ACE card


Like an omen, I happened to pick up a People Magazine my mother purchased as a fluke while I’m visiting her, and my Dad, in Florida. She wanted to read the cover story of Farrah Fawcett. Ironically, a non-cover story was about Major General Mark Graham, and his mission to prevent suicides of troops, along with his wife, Carol.

Even more ironic, August happens to be the military’s Suicide Prevention Month.

The Grahams have lost two sons… Army 2nd Lt. Jeff Graham died in February 2004, saving his platoon from a bomb on a bridge in Khaldiyah, Iraq.

But eight months earlier, they lost another son… ROTC cadet kevin Graham. Suffering from depression, he hung himself in his apartment at the University of Kentucky.

Excerpt from the People article:

Condolence calls and bouquets poured in [after Jeff's death]. They wondered, where were these mourners for Kevin? “Everybody is treating you totally different”, says Carol. Leaving a funeral home for the second time in eight months, the Grahams made a decision. At a stoplight, Mark Graham said, “The loss of the boys can either be the whole book of our lives, or it can be two tragic chapters.” Soon after, they started the Jeff and Kevin Graham Memorial Fund to prevent suicide on college campuses.

Years passed before he would discuss the issue among the ranks. In 2006, a military-family survivirs’ group, TAPS, asked him to speak. Losing a loved on in war is a frequent stopic on that circuit, and he expected they wanted to hear about Jeff. Instead, for the first time, he was asked to address suicide. It was a turning point: Since then, has has spoken about it often. “I hope it’s helped,” he says. “To be frank, it’s not easy. It’s horrendous.”

Our warriors are everywhere, and in various status of service. If a nation can be cajoled into spying on their neighbors for anti-Obama statements, I suggest it can even be easier to alert a nation to a warrior in trouble.

And to that end, I’d like to provide some suicide prevention resources.

For more information about Suicide Prevention Month or to request a suicide prevention presentation or to seek assistance for someone contemplating suicide, call the Employee Assistance Program at 842-0895 or 842-9897.

Other suicide intervention resources include:

Fox Army Health Center’s Behavioral Medicine, 955-888, ext. 1930;
Chaplain Services, 842-2174, 842-2176 or 541-6359;
Military One Source, 1-800-342-9647;
Huntsville/Madison County Mental Health Services, 533-1970;
National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255;
Hope, 1-800-784-2433;
and VA Readjustment Counseling Services, 1-800-271-1000.

You can see Major General Graham’s quick clip on the ACE program at the DOD’s Military Health System website.

~~~

WARNING SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS FROM ACE

Warning Signs: When a Soldier presents any combination of the following, the buddy or chain of command should be more vigilant and consider help:

• 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)
• In trouble for misconduct
• Soldiers experiencing financial problems
• Soldiers who have lost their job at home (such as Reservists or Guardsmen)
• Soldiers leaving the service

When a Soldier presents any one of these concerns, the Soldier 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.
Risk factors often associated with suicidal behavior include:

• Relationship problems (loss of girlfriend or boyfriend, or divorce)
• 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, permanent change of station or discharge)
• A serious medical problem
• Significant loss (death of a loved one, loss due to natural disasters)
• Current/pending disciplinary or legal action
• Setback (academic, career or personal)
• Severe, prolonged and/or perceived unmanageable stress
• A sense of powerlessness, helplessness and/or hoplessness

Suicidal risk is highest when:

• The person sees not way out and fears things may get worse
• The predominant emotions are hopelessness and helplessness
• Thinking is constricted with a tendency to perceive his or her situation as all bad
• Judgment is impaired by use of alcohol or other substances

About MataHarley

Vietnam era Navy wife, indy/conservative, and an official California escapee now residing as a red speck in the sea of Oregon blue.
This entry was posted in Military, Military Families, Personal, Support the Troops. Bookmark the permalink. Friday, August 14th, 2009 at 12:08 pm
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18 Responses to “Let’s not lose another soldier”… Major General Mark Graham’s ACE suicide prevention program.

  1. The problem is this…what do we do when we do NOT see any trouble? I am speaking for myself with PTSD and other issues.

    This is a dangerous transaction, suicide. Been there and done that.

    What can we do when we do not see anything?

    ReplyReply
  2. I made a new entry at my place… http://tinyurl.com/negjvs

    We cannot do enough to stop this but we MUST try.

    ReplyReply
  3. SBSmith says: 3

    (I have tried to comment 3 times before this and Poof….the page automatically goes back to the main page …..)

    What about when the person has given no behavioral or verbal indications they are considering suicide ?….
    Everyone is blindsided.
    It is my understanding that those who are truly considering suicide are the ones who never give verbal clues and few behavioral ones.

    ReplyReply
  4. HeatherOFR says: 4

    As a case worker for our wounded troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan – I’ve seen far to many valuable and precious lives ended from the effects of PTSD. I’ve been following your blog for years now – and your post yesterday about Maj Galloway bought me to tears. I work very closely with Soldiers/Marines with PTSD and of all the injuries I see – this troubles me the most. It is the invisible injury. My heart breaks for Maj Galloway’s family and I will be forever grateful to this brave warrior. God Bless him.

    Heather Sliwinski
    Operation First Response

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  5. Old Trooper says: 5

    This approach is very long overdue. There was a time not very long ago when an admission by any Soldier or Officer of symptoms of PTSD or asking for help was a career ender. I can recall more than a few situations where the individuals concerned received help and were passed over for promotions or reassigned to less than desirable duties.

    Untreated PTSD is a ticking bomb. It is in the best interest of the Soldier and the Service to do away with the stigma of getting help. Whether it is PTSD or Survivors Guilt, the Nation, the Army, the Families and the Friends cannot stand to lose one more. Treatment is available and God Bless the Healers.

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  6. Old Trooper says: 6

    SBSmith, Hey Pardner there are symptoms and changes in behavior. They may be subtle but they can be recognized.

    ReplyReply
  7. SoCal Chris says: 7

    Thank you, Mata, for researching this and providing some viable info on this subject.

    @HeatherOFR:
    Heather, I wondered if you, or anyone here, can give more clarification on another possible reason the troops have a hard time discussing things or reaching out for help, but one I don’t know if it applies or not. And, that is if they are concerned about compromising national security issues if they talk about details to another individual? I’m not in the military, so don’t know if that even applies. Or, at least if they have a strong need to make sure everything they’d share is completely confidential, so would allow them to feel more secure in talking about it? Thanks for any clarification on this.

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  8. Wordsmith says: 8

    A nice follow-up post to Chris’ tribute post, Mata.

    Even more ironic, August happens to be the military’s Suicide Prevention Month.

    I happened to catch sight of this photo earlier this morning at WaPo, which did seem timely:

    2009-08-13

    U.S. Army soldiers attend an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) class in Fort Riley, Ks. Soldiers are encouraged to come to the ASIST seminar out of uniform, so that officer status and rank do not prevent participants from having frank and open discussions about the issues around suicide. The Army requires all soldiers take suicide awareness classes as longer and more frequent deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years have taken a toll, with 96 reported Army suicides so far through July 31 of this year.

    Chris Hondros-Getty Images

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  9. bullmoosegal says: 9

    Part of the solution is to stop treating depression and suicidal thoughts among the troops and their families as something shameful, that should be hidden away and not discussed (as if they had dishonored their service and sacrifices by ‘failing to cope’). Thanks for writing this.

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  10. HeatherOFR says: 10

    Hi SoCal Chris,

    I can only answer your question from our own experience. I know the added pressures of trying acclimate back to civilian life aren’t helping these soldiers. So take PTSD and add to that in some cases severe financial burden’s as well and you have a recipe for disaster. I literally work all day long with service members who are waiting to be med boarded and their VA checks haven’t kicked in yet. Service Members with families are really struggling.

    These men are warriors. In some cases I’m getting the sense that somewhere along the line they are losing that pride…that warrior mentality. It was THEM who came to the rescue and now it is THEM who needs to be rescued.

    We are reaching out in so many ways to try and help these service member the best we can. Providing financial aid in their time of need is just one of many ways. It is not uncommon for my phone to ring in the middle of the night from a soldier who is in the midst of a PTSD tailspin.

    My phone is attached to me 24/7 and we have the resources and help to get them should they need it. Its just a matter of them taking that step. Sadly we have lost a lot of brave and precious lives through the years.

    My main focus is to make sure that we let them know that they are loved, they are honored and we will be forever grateful for all that they have done – and then we stay connected with them and build a relationship so that they can come to us whenever they need to for whatever reason.

    Hopefully this answered your question.

    ~Heather
    Operation First Response

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  11. Old Trooper says: 11

    By the way, the current VA Claims backlog exceeds 800,000 and the VA can take up to a year on initial claims. I know some veterans whose claims Appeals have taken years so add that to the stress factor. The Grateful Nation’s Government administered Health Care & Compensation and Pension system is a virtual rat maze where progress is measured in months & years.

    The DOD health Care and paychecks were a sure thing and steady. The V. A. is a very rude awakening for separated Service Members with just physical issues alone. The V. A. Compensation & Pension system is a mismanaged Government Program that makes the Veteran wait months & years for any money. That is a damn travesty and just plain shameful.

    I have an Army Pension from DOD and TRICARE for Life as I am retired. 28 years Service and 3 Wars for me as a Combat Arms Officer. Anywhere in the world in 72 hours was the commitment and we never let the Nation down.

    The Veteran that does not stay for 20 is at the mercy of the V. A. and the burden of proof
    is on the Veteran for compensation that they are due. If anything the Veterans Administration
    needs a boot in the A@@ for the time wasted and the backlog. When a nation goes to War and the War drags on for years the V. A. should have geared up and been ready for casualties. They didn’t
    hence the claims backlog and instead of bonuses, the V. A. Management should have received horsewhippings and firings for negligence.

    Just my take on it.

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  12. MataHarley says: 12

    SBSmith and Snooper, Old Trooper is correct that there are symptoms.. however subtle. Thus the ACE system. Allow me to reprint the card from above in it’s entirety:

    ASK your buddy:
    • Have the courage to ask the question, but stay calm
    • Ask the question directly, such as, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”

    CARE for your buddy:
    • Remove any means that could be used for self-injury
    • Calmly control the situation; do not use force
    • Actively listen to produce relief

    ESCORT YOUR BUDDY
    • Never leave your buddy alone
    • Escort to the chain of command, a chaplain, a behavioral health professional or a primary care provider

    ACE…. Ask, Care and Escort. Certainly taking the initiative when you suspect one is in trouble is key since many will not voluntarily admit their troubles and thoughts of ending it all.

    The article also had some addition symptoms and warning signs:

    Warning Signs: When a Soldier presents any combination of the following, the buddy or chain of command should be more vigilant and consider help:

    • 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)
    • In trouble for misconduct
    • Soldiers experiencing financial problems
    • Soldiers who have lost their job at home (such as Reservists or Guardsmen)
    • Soldiers leaving the service

    When a Soldier presents any one of these concerns, the Soldier 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.
    Risk factors often associated with suicidal behavior include:

    • Relationship problems (loss of girlfriend or boyfriend, or divorce)
    • 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, permanent change of station or discharge)
    • A serious medical problem
    • Significant loss (death of a loved one, loss due to natural disasters)
    • Current/pending disciplinary or legal action
    • Setback (academic, career or personal)
    • Severe, prolonged and/or perceived unmanageable stress
    • A sense of powerlessness, helplessness and/or hoplessness

    Suicidal risk is highest when:

    • The person sees not way out and fears things may get worse
    • The predominant emotions are hopelessness and helplessness
    • Thinking is constricted with a tendency to perceive his or her situation as all bad
    • Judgment is impaired by use of alcohol or other substances

    When you read these items, you realize that those experiencing financial or personal problems, seem under extreme stress, and perhaps exhibit some obsession with art or other activities… and perhaps with Chris, it was politics… this can be a sign to keep watch. Especially if they come in tandem with other actions, like divesting yourself of personal possessions.

    I was a Navy wife during the Vietnam War. So many of our vets experienced paths similar to our ME vets today. Perhaps, in one way, it became more difficult since the nation collectively spit on them when they returned. I know so many today that dodge any conversations of those years, and still live with ghosts that haunt them. But they thrive in different ways. Maybe there was a tighter bonding among them as they were considered dirt by the “love the one you’re with” generation. I don’t know.

    What I do know is that is this civilian training that all citizens must do for our warriors… or perhaps even civilians around us. To learn the signs… ASK. CARE enough to remove him/her from harm’s way when they are at their most vunerable (drinking, highly emotional, etc)… and then ESCORT them to help.

    Curt and I were talking about having some sort of permanent icon as a tribute to Chris on the FA main page, with a hotline number to contact. Makes me wonder if we should not all have “emergency ACE cards” for civilians as well, with contact numbers readily available. As the Major General says, we cannot afford to lose one more soldier. Frankly, a single one of them is worth millions of those we have sitting in Congress.

    ReplyReply
  13. Old Trooper says: 13

    The Army realized they were having problems in August of 02 at Ft. Bragg after a series of murders. Recent re-deployed Soldiers from the Stans, first time on real operations brought home issues. A few Troopers brought the War home with them. The Army’s response was too slow. I deployed in 02 and My Unit kept a close eye on our own.

    There was the stigma of asking for help of being sent for help then. Ft. Bragg and Ft. Benning saw the worst of it because they are the home of Combat Arms Soldiers. I was stationed at Bragg at the time. We deployed often because the Army was too small and the demand was huge for folks with our skill set.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0805/p03s01-usmi.html

    The suicide issues came later as repeated deployments started taking their toll. The Army was not prepared but finally Commanders and Senior Enlisted recognized the problem and DOD acted too slow.

    The ACE training did not exist but we did our damndest to look after our Soldiers without the ACE resources. I’m not talking about cartoon character “Rambo” types but highly trained and disciplined Soldiers that had gone through the Q Course and Ranger School. Tough hombres that stepped into the hell of continuous Ops and did it leaves mental scars on some. It was entirely up to Buddies and NCOs and Unit Commanders to take care of their own. Soldiers spend more time with them than Family Members. Repeated deployments just contributed to
    the problem.

    The Training should be Mandatory as SEC DEF Gates warns about several more years of Combat OPs in the Stans. ACE is long overdue.

    ReplyReply
  14. SoCal Chris says: 14

    Thank you, Heather. I really appreciate all of your input. All of what you said, and other info here, has certainly caused me to be more aware of what the warning signs are, and like you, to just try to communicate to them that I am there for them and be available to them. It grieves me to hear that some might be losing a sense of pride…God knows I see them all as heroes, personally to me, not just the country, and we have to do all we can to restore/renew that sense of pride in them.

    ReplyReply
  15. bruddamon says: 15

    @Old Trooper: I have founded and am in the process of building a nonprofit corporation call Generations of Warriors Project that is dealing with these and other readjustment issues. Please contact me at uno@generationsofwarriors.us and share thoughts and ideas with me, please.

    bruddamon
    USMC
    Vietnam 68-69

    ReplyReply
  16. Shannon Galloway says: 16

    Reading through this post briefly, looking back I would say that Chris DID show about 5 signs if I REALLY think about it, I KNEW he was in trouble, but I NEVER thought he would end it all. I thought he was just having a rough time. I KNEW he needed help, but he was VERY resistant to help of any kind.

    The stigma, the labels, the possibility of antidepressants. all VERY bad things to him. I am not sure what the answer is as in HOW to remove the peniltes or the stigma, but we HAVE to do it!!! Plain clothes is a start when talking about suicide prevention, but honestly, The soldiers often know so and so is an officer, or so and so is elisted from working with them or living near them.

    ACE is a good start. thank you for posting this lets take action and not just give it “lip service”

    Shannon

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  17. Julie Geddes says: 17

    @SBSmith: Not necessarily true. There are other things. Maybe this person is all of the suddenly happy, or doing something that seems strange. Go to the http://www.sprc.org . This site is very helpful. Sometimes it is a small clue that we think, oh well they are having a day. We are not taught to mind our business. We in essence ask questions if we think things are not quite right. Generally the happiest and most at peace on the outside, may have a plan and finally have relief because they know they will not have to be alive much longer. I know that sounds a bit odd, but in fact that is what happens.

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  18. you know that the ASTRONAUTS have a DEBRIEFING when they arrive so why not the soldiers cant have the debriefing specialyse for what they went through some period between the 2 lifes?

    ReplyReply

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