A Missouri National Guard Captain speaks out about her role in preventing suicide amongst members.
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A Missouri National Guard Captain speaks out about her role in preventing suicide amongst members.

Date: November 30, 2012
By: Jamie Ries
State Capitol Bureau


A Missouri National Guard captain and suicide prevention coordinator speaks out about suicide in the guard, and opens up about her own suicidal thoughts. Suicides in the guard are on high alert as holiday season proceeds.  Jamie Ries talks one on one with the captain to unravel why so many suicides are occurring.
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OutCue:  SOC

Actuality:  RMSTR.WAV
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Description: "You know, I have never really shared my personal struggles with anybody with suicide in the past."

Wrap: When Captain Robin Markham came to the Missouri National Guard in 2009, she was aware suicide was an issue.

There were five reported suicides among members that year.

She says the numbers were staggering.

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Description: "At the time we didn't have a suicide prevention program, and before I'd left for school, I'd been interested in starting something up. And when I came back, everybody felt there was an obvious need for the program."

Markham is now the suicide prevention coordinator.

She orchestrates events to prevent suicide, including suicide stand-downs that put aside physical duties and welcome personal discussion groups among guard members.  

Markham took on the duty because she knew members needed help.

And with four Missouri National Guard suicides reported this year, guard members still need support.    

Markham understands this support because she had suicidal thoughts during her air force training.

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Description: "I can recall one night when I was a cadet taking certain measures with the hopes that I wouldn't wake up the next morning and I just had to grit my teeth and finish out my schooling."

Markham joined the air force in 2003 and then started her Master's in forensic psychology in 2006.

She says she began to heal during her schooling.

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Description: "I started down that long road to learning about who I was and how I managed stress, mastering the resiliency I've developed in myself today."
The suicide intervention program offers prevention information to guard members.
Markham says leadership relies on understanding why members have suicidal thoughts.
She says money and children are the biggest factors leading to suicidal thinking. 

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Description: "There's no money for the kids, there's no money maybe to travel to go see their families. The winter months are so dreary in Missouri."

A positive factor that impacts suicidal thoughts is senior leaders in the guard.

Markham says one senior leader, Chaplain Gary Gilmore, has influenced her.
She says people like Gilmore make struggling guard members feel less alone.

Actuality:  RMGIL.WAV
Run Time:  00:08
Description: "I think that there are a lot of senior leaders who can take a lesson from him, not because of his spiritual division, but because of his wisdom and his experience."

Gilmore was a pastor before he came to the guard.

He wanted to make a bigger difference in the community after September eleventh.

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Description: "Nine eleven happened, and the need for family and warrior support just grew and grew and grew because we've had deployments ever since nine eleven."

Gilmore says Markham is building a cadre of trained responders in every unit.

He says she is the catalyst to make change happen.

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Run Time:  00:09
Description: "She has been that person who's interpreted it and kept it relevant to us and pushed that out to a force of 11,500 troops."

Markham is concerned numbers will rise with the holiday season underway.

That is because not all guard members are from Missouri and not all of them have family in the state.  


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Run Time:  00:06
Description: "We're getting into Christmas, you know, the holiday season. And last year, we had a suicide around that time."

The Missouri Guard held suicide intervention programs in October and November.

Gilmore says they have a care team map year round to aid suicidal guard members.

Guard members can contact them any time.

Actuality:  GGCT.WAV
Run Time:  00:05
Description: "They have their unit, we have the family readiness groups, and we have what we have nick-named the care team."

Gilmore says soldiers train to be tough, but a different kind of tough is knowing when to ask for help.

Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Jamie Ries.