What's working at Fort Bliss
(El Paso) KTSM — Suicides in the army fell nearly twenty percent last year.
These numbers are catching the attention of military leaders, who've been dealing with a rise in soldier suicides over much of the last decade.
Military officials said a cultural shift is taking place throughout the army, with the entire army family working together to decrease suicide rates across the board.
"Any time you can help a soldier, it's a great day at the army," said Sergeant Kristen Browning.
It's this type of attitude that is keeping suicide rates down in Fort Bliss.
"I think what makes a big difference here is the amount of applied suicides skills intervention training that we have done across the formation,” said Colonel Michael Heimall, William Beaumont Army Medical Center Commander.
Several programs at Fort Bliss and W.B.A.M.C have been implemented to identify soldiers who may need help - and at the same time, teach the troops how to help.
"We got out of our way to try and identify folks who have intervened, whether it be suicides, sexual harassment or sexual assault,” said Col Heimall.
Fort bliss has had and continues to have one of the lowest rates of suicides throughout the United States army.
The Beaumont commander said this is in part, due to soldiers recognizing the army's cultural shift that asking for help takes courage.
"Seeking help is a strength, and we need to emphasize that and it’s not going to have an adverse impact on your career,” said Col Heimall.
Sergeant Browning said it's her duty as a leader to recognize a soldier in need and then reach out to help.
"They were having issues, and thought their career was over, she said. “So first I listened to them and tried to teach them more about the army and how they can things better. But at the end of the day I also took them to the Chaplin to get that extra help."
Colonel Heimall said this program teaches soldiers about the warning signs to look out for.
"We look for sleep disturbance, changes in sleep patterns,” he said. “Sleep issues are probably one of the early warning signs that we can pick up on very easily and we don't often enough.”
Browning credits these programs for the positive results seen throughout the entire army.
"So we've seen the decrease across our unit and across fort bliss,” she said.
Colonel Heimall said another factor that helps keep suicide rates down are soldiers who do intervene when their comrades have suicidal ideations are being honored.