CHARLESTON, W.Va —
There are no words to express the heartache of having to announce the loss of another West Virginia National Guard service member due to suicide.
This is the third one of our own who have chosen death by suicide in 2020, and the second in the past two weeks.
Suicide is never the answer.
We, from the senior leader level down to the squad and flight level have been having these tough conversations between ourselves, but it is past time to be open and unafraid to have frank and candid discussions about this topic – at all levels and between each of us.
Coping skills, support and treatment work for most people who have thoughts of suicide. Mental health is paramount to us being healthy and mission ready as a National Guard.
These past few months have demonstrated that we are collectively going through tough times – our communities, state and nation have faced uncertainties unlike anything we’ve ever dealt with in living memory, and these uncertainties still remain.
Here is one thing I know. The men and women of the West Virginia National Guard take care of one another. One loss of life is too much and yet we continue to see an increase in suicides among our force. That means one more family shattered by a life gone too soon, one more unit left wondering what they could have done to help their fellow service member and one more statistic added to the count of men and women who have lost a battle they felt was too much to bear.
We have a choice now. We must face this issue head on and develop solutions to the problems our members are facing. This is not business as usual and our people need us, our leadership, our outreach and our compassion during this trying time.
They also need our action. It’s been shown again and again that the leading causes of suicide in the Guard are relationship and financial issues. I need leaders to act when our troops come to you with issues and concerns about pay, financial strain and home life. I need our Soldiers and Airmen to come forward when they are facing difficulties so that we can assist in getting you connected to the resources available. Getting help is not a sign of weakness.
I implore our Soldiers and Airmen across the force to be open and honest in communication. Fear and misinformation thrive when we don’t speak up and share information.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or are in crisis, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the Veterans and Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 right away. If you are in immediate danger of death by suicide – or you know someone who is – call 911.
The West Virginia National Guard is a family and we will continue to take care of one another, no matter the difficulties that we face. We will get through this together.
MG James Hoyer
The Adjutant General