Arkansas Guard Seeks Community Support in Preventing Suicides
American Forces Press Service
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Sept. 21, 2009 Senior leaders in the Arkansas National Guard, including the state governor, are asking for the public’s help to stop suicides among its troops.
"We constantly call on our men and women in uniform to help us,” said Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, commander in chief of the Arkansas Guard. “We ask for it here in Arkansas all the time -- from ice storms to floods to tornados. This is now an example when the rest of us need to help them.”
Beebe, accompanied by Army Maj. Gen. William D. Wofford, the adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard, focused on the loss of nine Guardsmen since Jan. 1 at a Sept. 18 press conference.
Of the nine, two are confirmed suicides, while two others are pending confirmation of suicide. Five others are no longer under investigation and were not labeled suicide by Arkansas coroners. However, the circumstances behind the deaths were inconclusive, Guard officials said.
Wofford said the Guard would not release specifics on the deaths out of respect to the families.
The Arkansas Guard has initiated several internal programs to stem against suicides.
"We, as an organization, have been providing training to our soldiers, airmen and their families,” Wofford said. “Over 95 percent just completed the second phase of our Suicide Stand-Down program.
“We have also this year implemented a philosophy for our unit leaders designed to destigmatize the idea of stepping forward and admitting that a soldier or airman has a problem.”
The problem for the Guard, Wofford said, is that it only has visibility on its soldiers and airmen for a couple of days each month.
“We need the community's help in watching out for our soldiers and airmen during the remaining 28 days each month," he said, adding that Guard members identified with stress-related problems during the redeployment process and family reintegration programs have been provided treatment or counseling.
The challenge is identifying a Guard member who has a problem that needs to be dealt with, he said.
Army Maj. Gen. William D. Wofford, the adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard, and Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe address reporters during a press conference Sept. 18, 2009. Wofford and Beebe called for help from the civilian community in identifying Guard members who may be at risk for suicide so they can get help. Arkansas National Guard courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
(From an Arkansas National Guard news release.)