FORT POLK, La. –
Behavioral health professionals from Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital conducted leadership development training with the 519th Military Police Battalion, Nov. 19 at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana. The focus of the training was suicide prevention and the importance of leaders to know their people.
Chuck Satterfield, licensed clinical social worker for BJACH, said the first line of defense for the prevention of suicide is knowing your people; knowing who works for, with and over you.
“It is very important that unit leaders know their people,” he said. “If you know your people you will notice if someone is off. You will see trends, notice behavioral changes and be in tune to the culture and climate of the organization.”
Satterfield said when leaders understand the culture of their unit and know their Soldiers they can take care of things before they become bigger problems.
“It’s more important than ever to reengage leadership about suicide prevention,” he said. “COVID-19 has changed the face or our civilization. After a year or more of isolation we are starting to get back together. We are realizing the isolation wasn’t good for us. We need to ensure Soldiers have the tools necessary to cope with the stressors in their lives.”
Satterfield said humans are social creatures, it’s important to build relationships and have positive interactions with others for our mental well-being.
Staff Sgt. Lori Fury, behavioral health non-commissioned officer at BJACH, said she and Satterfield are actively engaged with the 519th MP Battalion.
“It’s important to meet face-to-face, get to know the commanders, determine what they need from us and how we can support them,” she said. “We come to events like this to increase suicide awareness and prevention efforts, provide educational and leadership development training and enhance our outreach initiatives.”
Fury said getting to know Soldiers in their units is beneficial because they feel more comfortable talking to her and Satterfield when issues arise.
“There have been times where Soldiers have stopped us in passing because they recognize us from being in their unit footprint,” she said. “Because they recognize us, they will ask if they can stop by our office. I think having familiarity with us makes it is easier for them to come in and talk to us.”
Fury said, for behavioral health, it is our goal to get out to the units as much as possible to increase prevention and outreach efforts.
1st Lt. Aaron Blume, platoon leader, 41st Transportation Company, 519th MP Battalion, coordinated the suicide prevention LDP for the unit and said the training was extremely beneficial to him.
“My biggest take away is the importance of engagement with my people in my unit and for my squad and team leaders to be just as engaged with their Soldiers as I am with them,” he said. “What I mean by engagement is more than surface level conversations. Really getting to know our Soldiers to identify changes in attitudes and behaviors is the most important thing we can do to prevent suicide.”
Blume said he plans to go back to his platoon and set the precedence.
“I will begin the process of getting to know my squad and team leaders in a more meaningful way,” he said. “I will then let them know I expect them to do the same with their Soldiers.”
Blume said the training was valuable and gave him a hopeful outlook about suicide prevention.
“The Army has a lot of big topics and initiatives regarding suicide prevention, equal opportunity as well as sexual harassment and prevention,” he said. “This training made me realize that we as individuals can intervene and make a difference. Maybe I can’t solve every single thing; problems may still arise, but at least I can try.”
Blume said if everyone makes the effort to get to know one another and make those personal connections lives can be saved.
Editor’s note: You are not alone. If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 for the Military Crisis Line.