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                  Connectedness and Resilience: An Interpersonal Approach to Suicide Prevention in Basic Combat Training (BCT)
There is an ongoing mental health crisis in America that is affecting all layers of society. Even before the COVID-19
pandemic, suicidal ideations among Americans increased at an alarming rate, and over 19% of adults experienced mental illness. Disturbingly,
this crisis is disproportionately affecting young people (ages 11-24), and they experience mental illness at a rate that is almost 10% higher than
the general population. Anxiety and depression account for the preponderance of mental illness among young people and are the primary drivers of suicidal ideations/attempts across all demographic groups. The Army reflects American society, and over the last 15 years, it has had to come to grips with the reality of the mental illness in the ranks. The Army has made great strides in identifying, treating, and awareness of mental health issues
but, like the rest of the country, still struggles to eradicate the force’s scourge of suicide. The question becomes, “how do we improve awareness across
the force so that leaders at all levels can implement an effective strategy to reduce the instances of suicides, ideations, and attempts?” This begins with increasing understanding regarding the primary drivers of suicide with targeted leader training and developing an executable approach that focuses explicitly on said drivers before a service member enters a crisis.
Suicide is a national public health problem from which the Army is not immune. People First is our philosophy.”
– The Honorable Ryan D. MacCarthy, Secretary of the Army
“There is no single explanation for suicide, but the loss of even one Soldier to suicide is too great. We will continue to look hard at ways we can promote a culture of resilience and increase help-seeking behaviors.”
- General James McConville, Army Chief of Staff
Harvard Psychologist Dr. Thomas Joiner put forth the prevailing theory of suicide in 2005. He outlines an interpersonal theory of suicide, which states that connectedness and access to lethal means ultimately define the likelihood of suicidal action. He postulates that a person’s sense of “me” is linked to connectedness to a larger group and that perceptions of thwarted belonging and perceived burdensomeness undermine an individual’s sense of worth. This, in turn, results in emotional pain/ distress, and when this sense of desperation begins to overtake an individual’s sense of connectedness, it generates a sense of hopelessness. This is typically when a person enters the spectrum of suicidal
76 Jackson Journal
LTC Terrence Soule

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