Suicide Prevention ‘Our Problem,’ Battaglia Says

By Claudette Roulo, American Forces Press Service

Photo Credit: Courtesy photo(Fourth from the left) Spc. Andre Whyne, an infantryman, 4th Battalion, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), stands with members of his platoon during a trip to Philadelphia earlier this year. During a rough time in his life, these Soldiers and other members of The Old Guard came together to help save his life.

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss., Jan. 17, 2013 – Suicide prevention is not a new problem, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday, “but it’s our problem.”

Building resilience into the force is essential to preventing suicides, Marine Corps Sgt. Major Bryan B. Battaglia said during one of several enlisted calls. The military, he said, doesn’t teach turning around and running away from problems.

Total Force Fitness, a holistic approach to mental and physical health intended to build resilience, will help service members and their families deal with challenges, the sergeant major said.

The concept, developed by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, consists of eight wedges, each with a particular influence on mental and physical health.

“You hit adversity every day,” Battaglia told the service members here. The military teaches service members to assess a problem and develop courses of action, the sergeant major said, adding that service members should take that same approach to their personal lives.

“Be in a preventive posture,” he said.

Building resilience is both an art and a science, Battaglia said.

“This isn’t all about medicine,” he said. “It’s not strictly, ‘The answer is some sort of medication.’”

Part of the art of resilience hinges on leader engagement, he said. He called on enlisted leaders to help in preparing service members accustomed to a warfighting setting to serve in a garrison-focused environment.

Total Force Fitness plans will differ from person to person, he said, as each tailors it to meet their own needs to improve and stay resilient.