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Suicide Prevention Remains Ongoing Battle, Senior Official Says

By Terri Moon Cronk


The Defense Department and the military services have made inroads in suicide prevention, but work remains to be done, the vice director of the Joint Staff, told an audience of military chaplains here this week.

Army Maj. Gen. Frederick S. Rudesheim addressed the Chaplains’ Resilience and Suicide Prevention Forum at the Pentagon on Sept. 10 to mark the observance of World Suicide Prevention Day.

“All the services are focused and engaged on preventing suicide and enhancing resilience, and have been for a while,” Rudesheim said. “And we continually try to think of new and better ways to improve on our efforts. But I think there are a few things that haven’t changed over the years. We’ve been working this a long time.”

Many decisions can be made at the policy level, and programs can be executed, but ultimately, he said, “it’s at the very lowest level where we’re making a difference — or not.”

An important factor to remember in suicide prevention is that it’s personal, Rudesheim told the chaplains. “It’s [about] knowing the soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines, civilians, … and chaplains are great at that,” he said. “Chaplains know their folks. You build rapport beforehand.

The general said he appreciates chaplains for their immediate and direct contact with troops.

“As I’ve come up in the ranks, I’ve always gone to the chaplains to figure out how things are going in the unit,” Rudesheim said. “The chaplains will tell me straight, and tell me what’s on soldiers’ minds, what’s going right, and what’s going wrong.”

But suicide prevention is a longstanding effort in the military, he said. “It is not going to end. There’s “no finish to it,” he said. “There is no ‘We finally beat this.’ I don’t mean to be a negative force, but I’m telling you we can drive down percentages, we can work this as hard as possible, and we need to.”

Suicide prevention is not an issue that calls for a surge, but rather is something that is done as a matter of course, Rudesheim said.

“This is something we have to do as part of who we are, … because it’s going to be with us,” he added. “There are external factors that drive things up and down, [and] … there will be setbacks and challenges, but the fact of the matter is we’re in the fight all the time.

“It’s a constant effort and something we grow up knowing,” he continued. “If we don’t, there’s something wrong with our upbringing — and I’m talking about professional growth as leaders.”

Rudesheim told the chaplains that suicide prevention must reach down to individuals directly and “grab them” on a personal level.

“We’ve made inroads. Some of the services have brought down their numbers,” the general said. “But there’s no declaring victory. There is just the fight, because it’s what we owe our soldiers, airmen, [sailors] and Marines.”

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About Edited by Susan Bainbridge

At age 6, Susan was destined to be a journalist and photographer.  In 1980, Susan founded Bainbridge News and The Bainbridge Chronicle Newspaper. Bainbridge News specializes in Military and National Politics, including Military Funerals and Burials and Political Funerals and Burials.  Susan has covered the White House, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. She has covered every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Recognized for her versatility, Susan has also covered finance, crime, civil rights events, marches, sports, musical events and more. In 1990, she established Bainbridge Photography, an On-Location photography company. In addition to military and political events, including Military and Political funerals and burials, Bainbridge Photography expanded into covering ALL funerals and burials, receptions, weddings, real estate, inventory, insurance, portrait, head shot, pets, fire and Hazmat.  Miss Bainbridge believes in going the extra mile. "My Clients always come first." In 1980, Susan began her career in Washington, D.C., working for WMZQ Radio as a reporter and guest hostess from 1980 to 1985. Intrigued by radio, Susan wanted to write, freelancing for radio, television and print newspapers, including AP, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Northern Virginia Sun, The Press-Republican and The Bainbridge Chronicle (established by Susan Bainbridge). In 1986, Susan worked at WDCA-TV Channel 20 as a guest hostess for "Eye On Washington." From 1990 to 1994, Susan reported and anchored for "The Arlington Weekly News." Additionally, she produced a segment for the G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show. A prolific writer, while in high school in 1977, Bainbridge wrote an episode for NBC's "Little House on The Prairie" entitled "Laura's Best Friend." Though the show's producers did not use the script then, NBC producers encouraged Susan to pursue a writing and journalism career. Susan is a member of the National Press Club, the National Press Photographer's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Susan Bainbridge's recognitions include from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late actor Lorne Greene, among many others. BAINBRIDGE NEWS was founded in 1980 by Susan Bainbridge (a sixth generation writer), a third generation journalist, a first generation photographer and a fourth generation entrepreneur. She is the first generation to establish a news business. Bainbridge News is dedicated in honor of Miss Bainbridge's late grandfather and idol, Mark S. Watson (The Baltimore Sun editor and war correspondent from 1920 to his death in 1966).

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