FORT JOHNSON, La. –
One life lost to suicide is too many. To illustrate this critical point, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital hosted a community-wide Suicide Prevention Month open house from 8 – 10 a.m. on Sept. 13 at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Johnson, Louisiana.
The event was set up scavenger hunt style, to illustrate how targeted care provides clinical and nonclinical resources for behavioral health care. Resources were staged on every floor of the facility. Participants leveled up to the different resources depending on need as they navigated the various programs available. One building, one location allowed guests the opportunity to learn more about how targeted care collaboratively brings together a team focused on enhancing resilience and protect against suicide.
In addition to the BJACH primary and specialty behavioral health services, the open house included representatives from the Alexandria Veterans Health System, Army Substance Abuse Program, Army Community Service, American Red Cross, the Ready and Resilient Performance Center, Military and Family Life Counselors, the installation religious support office, as well as Oceans, Brentwood, and Longleaf Hospitals.
Lt. Col. Alexander Ragan, installation director of psychological health, said the intent of the open house was to bring in all levels of care and services available to Soldiers and their Families.
Ragan said behavioral health resources, peer-to-peer counseling, anger management training, substance abuse programs, therapy, and many other non-clinical and clinical programs can lower the risk of suicide.
“It is always amazing to see people come together to offer help for those who are suffering,” he said. “Learning about the resources to either help yourself or others as well as getting to know the people that care and are ready to offer help made this an important Suicide Prevention Month event.”
Christa Zayas, suicide prevention program coordinator for JRTC and Fort Johnson, said preventing suicide is a top priority for the DOD, and events like this one are important.
“We talk about and promote suicide prevention throughout the year,” she said. “Having a dedicated month to focus on suicide prevention along with events like this help get people talking about suicide prevention and connect to resources in our community.”
Zayas said the event was beneficial not only to BJACH beneficiaries but to the organizations who participated.
“We had a lot of really great interaction with people who came through,” she said. “The participants of the open house not only learned about suicide prevention but about a variety of resources that are designed to help people build coping mechanisms and resiliency that will help them throughout their daily lives.”
Luci Buch, family programs manager with Army Community Service, said the event was a great networking opportunity for all.
“We met a lot of people who were interested in our services and didn’t know a lot about ACS,” she said. “There are so many daily stressors that can affect a person’s life. At ACS we provide training, education, and tools necessary to help Soldiers and their Families build resiliency, improve communication, and enhance overall well-being."
Buch said ACS should be the first step when it comes to suicide prevention.
“We always like to say, ‘think ACS first,’ because we are the first line of defense, we’ll give you the classes and assistance you need before things get too out of control,” she said. “We have flyers in our lobby and our information and referral team is great at asking questions so they can provide information relevant to the issues our customers are facing. If we can’t help them at ACS, we will provide them with information to resources that can.”
Capt. James Walker, hospital chaplain, said the open house was designed to be a safe and interactive way to discuss mental health and suicide prevention.
“This was an opportunity for people to come together and learn about the targeted care program and all the resources available to them in our community,” he said. “I hope that visitors and guests take away a greater understanding of the importance of mental health and suicide prevention. I hope they feel more comfortable using the available resources. I hope they feel empowered to seek help if they or someone they know is struggling.”
Walker said it's important to know that support is within reach, and there is no shame in asking for it.
Molly Van Dyke, spouse of a Soldier assigned to 317 Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, came to the open house with two of her friends.
“I came out to learn about the different resources available to military Families, specifically spouses,” she said. “I think it’s good for me to get information so I can share it with other spouses when I talk to them.”
Van Dyke said there is a big need in the community for events like this.
“It was great to see, not just the hospital but on and off post resources supporting Fort Johnson,” she said. “This was a great use of my time and a wonderful way to put some names to faces and discover new things.”
Editor’s note: For more information about suicide prevention initiatives and mental health resources visit: https://www.health.mil/News/In-the-Spotlight/Mental-Health-is-Health