XVIII Airborne Corps holds 'Shark Tank' style panel for suicide prevention ideas at Fort Bragg

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- Suicide prevention and mental health remain prominent topics on Fort Bragg and their latest efforts involve hearing from soldiers on every level.

The XVIII Airborne Corps started a "Dragon's Lair" series where panelists filled with unit leaders and experts hear pitches from troops on particular topics, according to Colonel Joe Buccino, a Public Affairs Officer for the XVIII Airborne.

"The whole point of Dragon's Lair, which we started last October, was bringing those solutions up to the core headquarters, bringing it to the top and then spreading them throughout the core," Buccino said.

Monday's topic of discussion was suicide and mental health. Five troops, including Captain Kristen Bell of the 7th Transportation Brigade in Fort Eustis, Virginia, proposed a potential way to address the ever-growing problem in the military.

"Serving as a company commander and losing a soldier in my command definitely affected me on a personal level," Bell told ABC11 after her pitch.

While speaking to the panel, Bell talked about one of her soldiers who took his own life in 2020. She recommending a frequent behavior health provider check up as a potential solution.

"The change I want to see happen is that we do mandate every six months, every soldier sees a BHS," said Bell.

Another idea brought to the table was a mental health survey that could collect data and information to determine the morale and mental health of troops. Though a winner of this panel-style program is set to be announced, Colonel Buccino says every idea will make an impact in the XVIII Airborne Corps' mission.

"People are concerned about this problem and focused on addressing it," Buccino said.

According to a Department of Defense 2019 study, there were 498 confirmed military members who died by suicide. Of that number, 142 of them were active service members in the Army.

Meanwhile, in 2020, a preliminary report shows the number of suicides in the Army at 173.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text TALK to 741-741 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org

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