FORT HOOD, Texas - “It’s very refreshing to see that III Corps and the Army as a whole is reprioritizing actually getting to know the people at their core. It’s very important that we learn to slow down,” Jannan Melendez, Suicide Prevention Program manager here, said. “We have responsibilities, multiple roles, but without the people, we can’t get our mission done. Without taking care of our greatest asset, which is the men and women in uniform, we’re not going to be prepared to tackle all those things are going on.”
The 2021 Suicide Prevention Month theme, “Connect to protect: Support is within reach,” is focused on people first, a theme centered on recognizing behavioral changes that may only be seen after knowing and understanding people at a different level. Kenya King, Suicide Prevention Program manager who works with Melendez, said what people need to know about suicide prevention is the same thing they need to know about the People First initiative – it is all about the person.
“Knowing people at a different level. Have those conversations. We have to start talking about it. How do you solve a problem if you don’t talk about it?” King said. “The first step is understanding that a problem is there and then being able to talk about it, so that people get a deeper understanding of it. You don’t have to agree with it, you don’t have to say it’s right, wrong or indifferent, but can you understand what would get a person to that point?”
In recognition of Suicide Prevention Month, Fort Hood’s Suicide Prevention Program hosted a proclamation signing by Lt. Gen. Pat White, III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general in the West Atrium of III Corps Headquarters, Aug. 26. The proclamation outlined the theme and the commander’s promise to work with the Suicide Prevention Program to help put an end to suicides.
“Every month is Suicide Prevention Month, at least in my mind,” the commander said after signing the proclamation. “This is formalizing a month where we can really pay attention to what’s going on. That’s why this is important so we can put a spotlight on this month, but every day – 365, 24/7 – is suicide prevention.”
King said that there are warning signs that a person is contemplating suicide, but it is up to those closest to the individual to see, understand and help the person. Some common warning signs are excessive drinking or drug use, or even a person giving away items that are close to them. He said other individuals may joke about suicide, such as saying, “What would it be like if I were not here tomorrow? How would you feel?” Others may mask their feelings behind happiness.
“Sometimes they’re masking and they’re showing a good face, but behind closed doors, they’re going through some things,” King added. “A lot of different signs are there, but you have to get to know the person, so you can see the change.”
King and Melendez said the key thing is that people know they are not alone. Everyone single person goes through rough patches in life, but it is ultimately up to the individual to be courageous enough to ask for help.
For anyone contemplating suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Suicide Prevention Program office is located on the third floor of the Shoemaker Center, Bldg. 36000. They may also call (254) 287-0640 to find out about services on Fort Hood.
“People are our most precious resource – human beings – we need to be taking care of them,” White shared. “We need to get in front of this because this is a problem for our country and we need to help our Soldiers understand there are other alternatives out there.”