By Spc. Madalyn McQuillan, 241st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
NEW ORLEANS – More than 500 Louisiana National Guardsmen and members of the local community participated in the LANG Resilience, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Program (R3SP) Fearless 5K and Wellness Expo at Jackson Barracks in New Orleans, Sept. 18.
“September is suicide awareness and prevention month, and I can’t think of a better way to bring awareness to it than what we’re doing this morning,” said Maj. Gen. Keith Waddell, the adjutant general of the LANG.
The event was put on in partnership with the LANG Enlisted Association, Louisiana Work for Warriors and the Louisiana Red Cross Service to Armed Forces.
“Raising awareness about suicide and the warning signs to look for is important because it’s an overarching issue; it touches every single branch,” said Amber Sayer, R3SP program coordinator. “National Guardsmen have a unique position where they’re trying to balance their military career and their civilian lives and dealing with the multitude of stressors that come with that.”
In years past, the Fearless 5k was held at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana. The event was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Having the community come together for events such as the 5k is helpful to unite Soldiers and the members of the community that they live and work in together,” said Sayer. “It’s an organic way to come together and form camaraderie focusing on social, mental and physical aspects of the race.”
Post 9/11 suicide is the leading cause of death among veterans in the U.S. Learning to recognize early warning signs and knowing how to connect struggling individuals with the resources they need is an effective way to help change this statistic.
For those struggling with thoughts of suicide, there are several resources available to help.
The Army Resilience Directorate can be found at armyresilience.army.mil for a comprehensive list of available resources.
Those needing immediate help can call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Hotline. Callers can press 1 for military or veteran-specific help.
“If I could tell a Soldier that’s struggling with thoughts of suicide something, I would tell them that they’re not alone. I know it’s cliché, but the coordinators here and the people who run these outreach programs genuinely want to help,” said Sayer. “I’d tell them that if they’re feeling hopeless or purposeless, that they matter and that their experiences matter.”