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JBSA programs provide resources for prevention of suicide, substance abuse

By David DeKunder | 502d Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Dec. 6, 2018

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

Active-duty members who are experiencing feelings of depression, isolation and thoughts of suicide during the holiday season can get help from two Joint Base San Antonio programs focused on suicide and substance abuse prevention.

The Joint Base Substance Abuse Program, or ASAP, and the Suicide Prevention Program, both located at the Vogel Resiliency Center at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, offer services and resources to servicemembers, military family members, retirees and Department of Defense civilians in relation to suicide and substance abuse prevention.

Darlene Taylor, Suicide Prevention Program manager, said problems related to finances and relationships are the most common stressful situations encountered by servicemembers and military families during the holiday season.

Taylor said other life altering problems servicemembers could be dealing with, including a divorce, separation, or military career problems, can cause them to feel hopeless, depressed or isolated during the holiday season.

“When you combine those things together and the person feels hopeless, and they feel like there’s no way out, no one to talk to and no solution to their problem, it may lead to suicide,” Taylor said. “For us the key is to make sure we tell them that there are solutions.”

Taylor said people who need someone to talk to about their problems and feelings can call the 24/7 Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline consists of a national network of over 150 local crisis centers, providing free and confidential emotional support to people experiencing emotional distress or in a suicidal crisis.

In addition, information about resources and services on suicide prevention can be found at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Leslie Noel, ASAP prevention coordinator, said there are a number of reasons why servicemembers and individuals start abusing substances, including alcohol, which can develop into a drinking problem.

“Why do people drink?” Noel said. “It could be a number of reasons. You have people who drink because they want to have a good time and then you have the same people who also drink because of something that happened in their life, which was devastating. It really just depends on the individual.”

Noel said ASAP consists of information for active-duty and JBSA members on the consequences of abusing alcohol and drugs, making the right choices that can prevent the abuse of those substances and options and resources for people who have substance abuse problems.

Those options include a plan for drinking alcohol in moderation in which individuals follow to avoid the overuse and abuse of alcohol.

She said the ASAP program can connect military members, their families and government civilians who are seeking help to resources at the Vogel Resiliency Center and within the JBSA and local communities.

Noel and Taylor visit military units throughout JBSA during the year to raise awareness about their programs and services offered to active-duty members in the units. They do this at the request of unit commanders, who are required by guidelines to have a representative from both the Suicide Prevention Program and ASAP give a presentation to their unit annually.

Taylor said she and Noel refer clients in their programs to additional resources and services offered at the Vogel Resiliency Center, including a personal finance advisor, who can advise them on how to budget and manage money wisely; the Army Wellness Center, which has courses on nutrition, weight management, fitness and stress management; the Military and Family Life Counselor Program, providing counseling services to active-duty members and military families; and the Family Life Program, which includes educational and enrichment workshops focusing on the needs of individuals and families.

“We promote the other programs because the truth of the matter is suicide is a last resort,” Taylor said. “What you really want to do is you want to get to where you’re addressing the problems people have early on. We just don’t focus on our areas, we focus on a holistic approach to helping people.”

For active-duty members and military family members going back home, Taylor said she educates them on how they can get help and what resources they can turn to during the time they are on leave.

Taylor said the most important thing for servicemembers and military family members struggling with depression, isolation or loneliness is to talk to someone, whether it’s through the programs and resources offered at JBSA, someone in the chain of command in their unit, a chaplain, their primary care provider, a friend or a servicemember they trust.

“One of the things we look at is connectedness,” she said. "Connectedness is one of the keys to helping prevent suicide, is keeping people connected, letting them know that you care and reaching out to people so that they know who they can come to when they have a problem.”

Contact information for the Suicide Prevention Program is at 210-221-2093 and for the  ASAP program, call 210-221-0326.

For information on the other programs and services at the Vogel Resiliency Center, call 210-539-1281/1282.