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G-1, Human Resources Policy Directorate

Supporting Soldiers, Families & Civilians – Active, Guard, Reserve and Retired

3 September 2008



In response to your friend’s statement that his life insurance will pay off the mortgage in the event of his death, how should you respond to your friend? (His statement is ambiguous in terms of intent to harm himself. It is obvious that he is experiencing intense distress. The next step would be to clarify your friend’s statements by asking such questions as, “…are you going to intentionally put yourself in danger? Are you thinking about suicide?; Are you intending to die?”


Your friend, in response to your questioning replies, “Oh…I’m not thinking of suicide. I could never do that. I love my family too much.”  How might you respond? (A good response would be, “Well, I’m glad to hear that. However, I wonder if all this stress may preoccupy you to the point that you might be distracted while in theater. That could put you at greater risk of being injured or killed.”.)


In response to your statements, the friend says, “You know, I never thought of that. You might be right!” What might you say now? (Well then, you might take some time now, before you deploy, to try to resolve some of your problems. You could speak to a JAG officer regarding your legal rights while deployed. You and your wife could also get some assistance with your marital difficulties, though it sounds like the marriage will be much better once she no longer has to fear losing the house.)


Why did you not escort your friend immediately to a mental health provider? (While your friend is experiencing a tremendous amount of stress, he has not said anything to indicate that he is in imminent danger to himself or others. Through your questioning, you have determined that your friend wants to live; he is just experiencing some vague thoughts about dying in order to save his family. You have directed him to sources of assistance, and he appears motivated to resolve his problems. )


Your friend elects not to seek assistance, and his condition continues to decay. He has taken to drinking heavily, and he seems to cry at the drop of a hat. He speaks to you very infrequently. His wife states he has purchased a handgun.  He eats only rarely and has lost about 20 pounds.  What should you do? (In this case, where you suspect that your friend is suicidal but not imminently suicidal, you might consult with a mental health professional regarding your best course of action. You could also speak to your friend again to reassess his potential for self harm. You could speak with his wife regarding your concerns. However, she may be as confused as you are. Perhaps she can locate the handgun and remove it (caring) from the house while your friend is so depressed. You could also insist that your friend accompany you (escort) to a mental health provider or an emergency room. The key issue here is that your friend is technically a civilian and cannot have his civil rights taken from him unless he is IMMINENTLY dangerous to himself or others.)

Scenario #10 – Pre-deployment


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