Program manager aims to increase soldier suicide awareness at Fort Bragg

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- A woman's personal loss has directed her into a career path of making sure others are not lost to suicide.

Liz Bechtel, the suicide prevention program manager on Fort Bragg, says the tragic issue hits close to home, "I've lost several family members and friends to suicide".

Only a year into her time at the garrison, Bechtel coordinates three classes, two of them happen on a monthly basis.

"We teach those prevention and intervention skills training, so that they are able to recognize anyone that is at risk for suicide," Bechtel said.

These educational tools are available to soldiers and citizens with a Department of Defense ID, per Bechtel.

According to the DOD, 325 active army members died by suicide in 2018, not just including Fort Bragg; meanwhile, in the first quarter of 2019, the DOD saw around 30 deaths.

Bechtel has been working in suicide prevention for more than four years. She says they teach classes how to ask the tough but simple question, "have you thought about ending your life?"

"That's what we teach people. How to approach someone about suicide, how to have that conversation with them," said Bechtel.

The classes, filled with 20 to 40 people, teach students how to look out for these red flags: changes in behavior, giving away personal items, and even verbal cues of hopelessness.

"Having one or two people in my past that's walked up to me and said that they've helped save a life, that's enough to keep you going," Bechtel said.

Once you become the first line of help and contact, the department says the next step is providing the appropriate resources: directing the individual to the unit chaplain or chain in command, Womack Army Medical Center, or even the suicide prevention department.

A career born of tragedy is now allowing Bechtel to indirectly save lives one class at a time, "rewarding, it's rewarding".

If you are interested in joining the class, you can contact the suicide department at 910-432-7279 for dates and times.
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