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JBSA Suicide Prevention Taskforce coordinates resources

By Rachel Kersey | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Oct. 1, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —

Saving lives is the mission of the Joint Base San Antonio Suicide Prevention Task Force.

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month and the Task Force has ramped up its efforts to coordinate and educate JBSA leaders on the resources available for those who are struggling.

“The Suicide Prevention Task Force plans, implements, and manages local suicide prevention program efforts,” said Dennis Campbell, alcohol and drug control officer for the 502nd Joint Base Substance Abuse Program. “In simplest terms, we help unit commanders and other leaders in their efforts to prevent suicide. The SPTF coordinates with the 502nd Community Support team to provide a joint base approach to suicide prevention.”

There are multiple entities across JBSA, like the Life Worth Living working group, who collaborate to determine needs, provide resources, and educate leaders about suicide indicators and prevention.

Chaplain (Maj.) Mark Nikont is one of the leaders of the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence’s Life Worth Living working group within their Readiness and Resiliency Council, which focuses on determining needs and finding solutions.  With the help of other chaplains, Nikont provides care to MEDCoE Soldiers assigned across JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and JBSA-Camp Bullis.

“The Life Worth Living working group is diverse and composed of leaders and professionals in the fields of behavioral health, the chaplaincy, and legal affairs,” he said. “Our mission is to examine all facets of professional and personal life that could potentially trigger the inclination to commit self-harm and develop proactive initiatives that can raise awareness and elevate prevention efforts in all areas of service members’ lives.”

The Life Worth Living initiatives include a weekly 15-minute guided meditation on the Book of Psalms, accompanied by soothing music and a nature video to distress and decompress, he said. The group also hosts a weekly Bible study on Wednesdays on CVR Microsoft Teams in the ‘MEDCoE Command Chaplain’ group, or via dial-in at 210-221-8757 or 210-336-8412.

On Sunday mornings, service members may also attend virtual messages at Chaplain Messages, Nikont said.

“We have chaplains on-call 24/7, always ready to help meet the needs of our students and cadre,” Nikont said. “Those struggling with suicide often feel alone or that no one cares what they are experiencing. I want to ensure that every member of the MEDCoE Family knows they are needed, valued, and a vital part of the family and that they are given the personal mental, emotional, and spiritual tools to thrive in the military and lead a life worth living!”

Other members of the JBSA Suicide Prevention Task Force include the Vogel Resiliency Center, the BAMC Behavior Health and Commander’s Ready and Resilient Council, the Integrated Resilience Program, and many others who all have the primary goal of preventing suicide.

“Suicide prevention should be important to everyone,” said Valerie Gurule, community ready and resilient integrator for JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. “It is important because we are connected as a military community, as someone's wife, husband, father, sister, brother, etc. As such, we need to support and care for those in crisis and distress.”

If you think you know someone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide, use the acronym ACE.

ASK: Talk to the person. Find out how they are feeling.

CARE: Do not leave the person alone. Remain calm and remove any objects that could be used to cause harm.

ESCORT: Get help from a professional immediately. Dial 911 or escort your friend to the nearest emergency room yourself.

“Suicide is a community health problem and can be prevented,” Gurule said. “It is possible to save lives and prevent injuries.”

 If you or someone you know needs immediate assistance, they can call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).