Mr. Brian Campbell (seated, second from right), the Suicide Prevention Program Coordinator for the Maryland National Guard, expounds on the importance of Suicide Intervention Officers (SIOs), at the Behavioral Health and Suicide Prevention Symposium for all Maryland Army National Guard unit command teams at Fort Meade, Md., Aug. 7, 2022. A critical component of readiness, suicide prevention is a stated priority of the Maryland Army National Guard. Credit: Maj. Brendan Cassidy / U.S. Army National Guard
FORT MEADE, Md. – Maryland Army National Guard command teams attended suicide prevention and behavioral health symposium to learn about related resources at the Post Theater on base, August 7, 2022.
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead, commander of the MDARNG, stressed the importance of accountability and access to resources.
“I want our commanders and fellow Soldiers across our force to be looking out for their brothers and sisters, check in to see how they are doing and still know where to point them for important resources that help with finances, relationships, stress, and other issues one might face,” said Birckhead.
Brian Campbell, Suicide Prevention Program coordinator, echoed those sentiments as he presented information about the effectiveness of unit Suicide Intervention Officers.
Subject matter experts engaged over 120 commanders, command sergeant majors, and first sergeants covering behavioral health topics to enhance the readiness of Soldiers and family members. Presenters encouraged attendees to ask questions on how to support mental health in the ranks and keep the conversations about the matter open.
“There’s no better way to recognize risk factors as a commander than simply getting to know your service members,” said U.S. Army Capt. Jessica Smith, Suicide Prevention Program manager with the National Guard Bureau.
Other topics during the symposium discussed substance abuse prevention through early counseling, sexual assault prevention and response, and how to reduce veteran suicide.
Chaplains encouraged the command teams to know the internal resources, and the unit leaders interacted with speakers to find pertinent information.
“We need to stop the stigma when Soldiers need to ask for help,” said Birckhead. “Focus on prevention, so we never need to intervene.”