As we head into the holidays, many of us are looking forward to spending some extra time with family and taking a break from the many demands that our military and civilian obligations put on us. The holidays are a time to relax, and perhaps to reflect. It can be a very happy time.
Not all of our Soldiers necessarily feel that way, though. For those of our Soldiers who are dealing with troubling personal circumstances, the holidays are not a time of relaxation and happiness. Instead of reflecting on past blessings and future goals, some Soldiers tumble into a pit of loneliness, separation, and depression. The normalcy and routine of job and duty that help them paper over their personal challenges is gone for a time, leaving the Soldier nothing to do but think about how bad their circumstances seem to be. Worse yet, watching others be happy when the Soldier himself is not happy, can aggravate the problem.
Leaders: Be sure that all of your Soldiers understand how important they truly are. One of the very best ways that we, as leaders, can combat suicide is by building units that are meaningful, purposeful, and worthwhile.
Is it any wonder that the rate of suicide increases over the holidays?
All of our Soldiers need to remember that even though we are in the holiday season, and aren’t necessarily coming together at the reserve center to perform battle assembly, they are still part of our team. As part of our team, they are both valued, and incredibly valuable. Each Soldier is critically important to the team, and without each of our Soldiers, we are less able to accomplish the missions that our nation counts on us to perform.
Leaders: be sure that all of your Soldiers understand how important they truly are. One of the very best ways that we, as leaders, can combat suicide is by building units that are meaningful, purposeful, and worthwhile. By doing this, we give our Soldiers a reason to want to come to the next battle assembly. When Soldiers have meaning and purpose in their lives, and something to look forward to, they are less likely to consider suicide.
Over the holidays, be sure that your Soldiers know that if they have a problem, if they feel worthless or unneeded, that they can reach out to the rest of the team, and that the team will be there to take care of them, holiday season or not. Do all of your Soldiers know how to get in touch with you if they have a problem? Are you sure?
Everything we do is about leadership. One of the basics of leadership is to know your Soldiers. Engage with your Soldiers, and be sensitive to any of your Soldiers who might seem to be struggling over how they will spend their holidays. If you have the sense that there might be a problem, dig into it. Simple care and concern will go a long way toward preventing problems.
The holidays are a wonderful time! Let’s work together to make sure that all of our Soldiers have the best possible holidays, and come back in January, rested, happy, and ready to go forward with the mission.