Chandler calls on leaders to open up about their own combat stress
By JOYCE TSAI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 26, 2012
WASHINGTON — One of the Army’s main weapons in combating suicide is the recognition that everyone, no matter their rank, can be at risk, said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.
Chandler said he hoped that a full day of mandatory suicide prevention training during Thursday’s “stand down” would drive home that message to troops and their families.
The Army will offer seminars on identifying the warning signs of suicide as well as resources on where to find help. But Chandler said Wednesday that one of his goals is to encourage senior leaders to share their stories of struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and suicidal thoughts.
He hopes that commanders can “lead by example,” he said.
“It is a source of strength to ask for help,” Chandler said. “And we are all about being strong in the Army.”
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III ordered the stand down following the release of July suicide figures. During that month, 38 soldiers, including 26 active-duty soldiers, died of suspected or confirmed suicide, the most of any month since the service began keeping records.
Chandler said he planned to speak to soldiers about his own experience struggling with both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury after serving in the Iraq War. After his life went through a bit of downward spiral after a 122-mm rocket attack, he sought behavioral counseling for two years. He says that decision helped him to rise to the position he is in now.
“And ultimately I’m a better person, father and soldier, as a result,” he said.