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Soldiers participate in Army-wide suicide stand-down day

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As the number of suicides in the military continues to rise, the Army ordered soldiers to spend Thursday focusing on suicide prevention.

As part of that training, hundreds of Fort Hood soldiers gathered in the auditorium on post to listen to personal stories from people who have been impacted by suicide.

Soldiers were also told about behavioral health programs available and learned about the warning signs to look out for. In addition, they talked about the goal of getting rid of the stigma that's often associated with depression and suicide in the military.

There have been events and programs dedicated to suicide-prevention before, but this is the first year there has been an Army-wide "stand down" for this training.

"What types of things can we do to decrease suicides in the Army and in our communities and lastly just to make people more aware of what risk factors are in a person who might be at risk of suicide, what warning signs, what resources are available and how can we get them to help," said Fort Hood Suicide Prevention Program Manager Sharon Sutton.

Several people personally impacted by suicide shared their stories with the soldiers including the parents and son of a soldier who committed suicide, and a woman whose husband was in the military who killed himself after returning home from being deployed.

"Back when Richard killed himself it was something that wasn't talked about. There really weren't support groups. Our soldiers were left wondering. It wasn't just another death, it was a leader who everyone saw as a rock and it made people question their health and how they're doing and maybe they need to take a better look at their life after deployment," said Sarah Campbell-Hester, whose husband committed suicide.

"If they would have had a stand down and they would have come in and seen a panel and been forced to come here and do this type of training while he was struggling, and especially if he and seen a child on that stage who lost someone to suicide, it would have made the difference," said Judi Swenson, whose son committed suicide.

At Fort Hood there have been eight confirmed suicides this year and seven more are being investigated. Army wide, there have been 116 confirmed suicides so far in 2012, an increase over last year. The army hopes that having "stand downs" will help lower those numbers.

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