Guard Watches 'Family' Closely - - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Guard Watches 'Family' Closely

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Mental health experts are careful about connecting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with suicide.

The North Dakota Department of Health Suicide Prevention Program Coordinator says PTSD does not CAUSE suicide...

However, there is a correlation..and a sharing of risk factors.

North Dakota's National Guard is aware of the connection, and works with mental health experts to stay aware.

Mike Chaussee has more about how the Guard watches its soldiers and how the rest of us can help...

(Begin broadcast script)

The members of the North Dakota National Guard consider themselves a family.

(Col. Robert Fode/ ND National Guard)  "It is a family.  When you have one soldier that is killed in action, and you have seven other classmates that are with them...that is a family.  The army, navy, marines, coast guard can't say that.  They come from all over the place.  They talk family, but we definitely are a family."

As a tight knit group...

(Chaplain David Johnson/ ND National Guard) "I think that bond becomes very, very tight"

They're trained to look out for each other..

(Lt. Col. Robert Fuger/ ND National Guard) "We don't diagnose because we're not clinicians but we can identify people who need some assistance and get them in the right direction.  That is part of our training."

And they know, that after someone is deployed.  They'll change.

(Lt. Col. Paul Harron/ ND National Guard) "We all change when we deploy, there's not a single person who doesn't change.  Even just wearing the uniform...I would just ask that people be aware and pay attention to those who may have suffered some critical stress incident in their life.  Dramatic changes in their lifestyle..and help them try to seek help for that."

Some soldiers return and easily transition to life back home.

For others, the stress leads to dramatic changes... and post-traumatic stress.

(Micki Savelkoul/ ND Dept. of Health) "Some people eat too much, some people don't eat enough, some people sleep all day, some people don't's very specific to the behavioral changes in that individual."

Savelkoul says PTSD does not cause suicide.

But symptoms associated with Post-traumatic stress - can lead to suicide.

(Savelkoul) "It is important to talk about suicide.  That's one of the best ways to prevent it, is to talk about it."

The Health Department works with the Guard and other military personnel to train them about warning signs that can lead to suicide.

The best advice for anyone who thinks they know someone with suicidal to ask them about it.

(Savelkoul) "typically they don't get angry about it. They're grateful that somebody is concerned about them.  So my final thought is..if you're worried or thinking that somebody is suicidal, it's okay to ask them.  It doesn't put the thought in their head, and you may help somebody get help."

Savelkoul says be direct...and the sooner, the better.

(End broadcast script)

The suicide hotline is an excellent resource.

The number is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

The same service is available for people who suffer from PTSD who may not have suicidal thoughts.

The number for the PTSD hotline is the same...1-800-273-8255
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