National Guard

 

About the series: Resiliency

When Arkansas experienced its highest number of suicides on record, Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill traveled there to find out why and what was being done. What he found were people willing to talk about this sensitive subject with the hope of preventing more suicides.

After hours of interviews and exhaustive research, he’s produced this six-part series about resiliency at all levels of the National Guard. Starting in part 1, “Instilling resiliency,” he looks at suicide from a leadership perspective – how leaders comes to grips with the disturbing trend and how they design intervention programs to counter it. Part 2, “A case study,” examines one state’s efforts to increase resiliency and prevent suicide. He chronicles the tireless efforts of an adjutant general in a state facing a crisis in “It takes strength and courage.”

He relates the story of a Soldier going over the edge and the emotional trauma left behind in “Fell through the cracks.” In part 5 (“I’ve got a lot of reasons to live”) he describes the psychology of a suicide with a Soldier that tried to take his own life. He wraps his series up with a personal commentary about a friend who lost his battle for sobriety and life in “Keeping battle buddies from the void.”

Like most of his writing, Greenhill has wrapped his arms around all aspects of resiliency and suicide in an effort to get to its cause. Army and Air Guard leaders have said before Congress that relationship and financial issues are the main reasons, not deployment stressors as many would have predicted.

He looks at this delicate yet disturbing issue from every angle: from what top officials at the National Guard Bureau are saying about it, to what’s being done in Arkansas to prevent it, to someone who’s tried it, to a suicide widow and the questions she still asks and to those in charge of and working in programs tasked to make Guardmembers less susceptible.

His sources run from the chief of the National Guard Bureau right down to a private in the Arkansas Guard.

Greenhill compares the Guard’s rate to that of the national average and discovers that statistical analysis of suicides is an uncertain science.

He interviewed more than 20 people for this series. He laboriously scrolled through hours of taped interviews and written notes and reviewed page after page of records to be true to his journalistic craft.

Greenhill’s stories probe relentlessly into a difficult subject while being factual, sensitive to his subjects, passionate and grounded in experience—one of his good friends took his own life several years back. These articles, with their many bleak moments, have one common thread of hope woven throughout: resiliency. There are resources, programs and – most of all – people that want to help someone feeling hopeless and prone to desperate measures. And these people will not cease in their efforts at making Citizen-Soldiers and -Airman and their families resilient to the pressures of military service and life.