Fort Lee chaplains gathered with community spiritual leaders to spread the word on mental health issues affecting Soldiers.

The second Fort Lee and Tri-Cities Clergy Symposium March 17, focused on post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide prevention.

Dr. Robert Brown, Kenner Army Health Clinic Behavioral Health Services staff psychiatrist, started the community meeting off with an informative lecture about PTSD. He gave tips for identifying PTSD and how to work with Soldiers to help alleviate their symptoms.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Joseph Gibilisco, family life chaplain, and Chaplain (Maj.) Lonnie Locke, pastoral care and Warrior Transition Unit chaplain, spoke on combat and the warrior’s soul, with Locke focusing on the Battlemind training program.

“As pastors and chaplains, we bring an important piece to this puzzle of reintegration,” said Locke. “That’s what Battlemind is really about, reintegrating the Soldier from a combat experience to the real world.”

With the Army’s increased focus on suicide awareness, Chaplain (Maj.) Jack Dixon, 23rd Quartermaster Brigade chaplain, updated the clergy members on the Army Suicide Prevention Program. Dixon said in the last fiscal year, nearly 140 Soldiers in the Army committed suicide, which brings its per capita rate higher than the civilian population for the first time.

“One suicide in the Army is one too many,” said Dixon. “That’s the way we have to look at it. It never comes to us when it’s convenient or it’s timely. It’s always at exactly the wrong time when it presents itself. But we have to take action when it happens.”

Dixon urged the visiting clergy members to be on the lookout for Soldiers who may be considering suicide.

“You’re in a leadership position just like I am,” Dixon said to the audience. “You, as our support network, are out there. You see our Soldiers in a context and in situations we don’t see them in. They can hide it from commanders, sergeants and platoon leaders. Chances are they won’t hide it quite as well when they are with you.”

When talking to someone who they think may be suicidal, Dixon said they need to ask three particular questions. He said they should clearly ask if the person is thinking about suicide, and to follow it up with asking if they have thought about the method.

“You want to know how far they’ve taken this (thought),” said Dixon. “How far down the road have they travelled? And it is a road. It’s a process that has not happened all of a sudden, unless drugs or alcohol is involved. This is something that has been going on, probably for months.”

If they answer that they have, Dixon said the last question should be if they have thought about an actual time they would do this. If they have, they should be escorted immediately to the nearest care facility.

“Anyone at any age can commit suicide,” said Dixon. “I can show you statistics all day long. It’s not about statistics. It’s about the person standing in front of you who is desperate: desperate to make the pain stop and desperate from feeling helpless and hopeless.”