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Fort Sill hosts summit on suicide

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

FORT SILL, OK (KSWO) -For the first time at Fort Sill, a suicide prevention summit was held for soldiers and members of their families.

Dozens of soldiers, Marines and off-post professionals, including police officers, gathered at Snow Hall to hear from suicide survivors and to discuss ways to enhance the military's current approach to prevention.

Mental health professionals who work on post have approximately 2,500 contacts each month who are contemplating suicide. For the more serious cases, they send three to five soldiers each week to a psychiatric hospital.

Suicide survivor and military spouse Tiffany Jackson, one of the speakers at the summit, says she made an attempt on her life when she was a teenager.

"My story as a military dependent took me to that place of being scared of the unknown, having the emptiness of moving off to college," Jackson said.

Supervisory social worker Mathew Kappel helps soldiers daily on post. He says it is virtually impossible to measure the success of suicide prevention programs.

"What we want to do is emphasize the success stories of the lives that we really do save, but you can't ever count although we do identify suicide as a horrible tragic thing that really warrants study and discussion,' Kappel said.

Kappel says the first line leaders are responsible for building connections with their soldiers and making sure they are mentally stable.

"When a soldier shows up to work you know who is normally light-hearted, who’s telling the jokes, who’s the one that's always serious so when there is a change if you don't have a relationship with your soldier you're not in a position to ask any more questions. Hey what's different? How come you're not the same old you," Kappel said.

Kappel says statistics show the suicide risk is highest for those who are from sergeant to sergeant major ranking, which are typically the 25- to 34-year-olds.

"They're responsible for making things happen within the unit all the way from the unit level up to brigade level. So yeah, they take on all that responsibility and stress," Kappel said.

More than 12 years since her suicide attempt, Jackson says she is still working to make her life and the lives of others better.

"What can I do to be accepted? To get rid of the loneliness, the emptiness so my point in the world is to find my purpose. Be a help to society and help others," Jackson said.

Kappel says the three signs soldiers should watch for in their battle buddy are depression, a type of stress, whether it be from work or something else, and the presence of drugs and alcohol.

Major General John Rossi, Fort Sill commanding general, says four out of the 10 deaths of soldiers during his approximately two years at Fort Sill have been suicides.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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