Portland Tribune Story from August 2008 tells what has become more and more real. Listen up. There may very well be some soldiers out there that don’t buy into the ideas of ‘friction’ or ‘combat stress’ or ‘PTSD’ or even of ‘depression’. There are many reasons for this; stoic mentality and outlook of the solider, cultural norms and pressures, the uncomfortable nature of dealing with one’s own emotional landscape (easier to ignore it, some believe), and more. Yet here is the reality… whatever your viewpoint on mental states, soldiers are comitting suicide at alarming levels. If you are in a position of leadership and you simply thumb your nose at the data, you are failing your troops. By not taking this seriously you are failing as a leader and aren’t worth your stripes. Period.
Educate yourself on the signs. Watch your troops. Don’t take no for an answer. When we are out on a movement on a hot day, the good NCO doesn’t take "I’m not thirsty sarge" as an excuse for not drinking water. At least not any NCO I know of. You make them drink water (or if you let them pass out you do so with medics nearby so that they can get the pleasure of an IV to learn their lesson). Why would any competent NCO treat drinking water as more important than suicide risk behavior among his/her troops? Well, one it is uncomfortable to talk about issues. How do we do it? Do you just go up to a troop and say ‘hey, how ya feeling?" Actually, that’s a start. You already know your troops (if not, get to know them) and keep close to them. Learn to read them. Educate yourself on the warning signs and then wonder what each of the different personalities that are under your leadership would behave like for each sign. We all show joy, anger, sadness in different ways. And if you think someone is a risk… keep on them. Stay close. Hell, bring them home and make them watch bad movies with you just so they are not alone. You don’t have to be the world’s best counselor, but you can be a good NCO and take care of them.