Inside the Gates: Protecting soldiers’ mental health

September is suicide prevention awareness month
Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 7:08 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - There is still a stigma in the military when it comes to reaching out for help. That stigma is slowly on the decline and Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense are working together to help military members with their many transitions.

“Whenever you’re in that dark tunnel and you can’t see your hand in front of your face, that emotional pain, you don’t see a way out,” Suicide Prevention Coordinator Rebeca Chace said. “So we need everyone involved. Family and friends to go ahead and notice the signs.”

Chace says it is very hard for military members to make the change from active duty to civilian life.

“Maybe using alcohol or substances to self medicate at first, numb those feelings and it becomes an addiction, an added problem,” Chace said. “Risky behaviors. You have adrenaline junkies in people who like to jump out of an airplane but they have a parachute, there’s safety there. If you hear about a veteran or anybody driving 100 miles per hour down the Glenn Highway, taking their hands off the steering wheel, they are putting themselves and others in danger.”

Fort Hood in Texas is being called the Army’s most crime-ridden post. So far this year, 28 soldiers at Fort Hood have died. Five by homicide, six have died via suicide and five deaths are still pending. The violence is so alarming that Congress issued its own investigation on the base.

Here in Alaska, suicide is also a problem.

“It’s two different worlds,” Chace said. “Transitioning out of the military is a big thing. Coming back and living with family or a spouse and children things like that. Before you’re in a different world out there.”

Chace said mental health is everyone’s responsibility. Seeking counseling and treatment is key along with learning coping and grounding skills.

If you or someone you know have thoughts of suicide, hurting themselves or others there is help available. You can call the Alaska Careline at 1-877-266-HELP

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