As a senior leader in the United States Army, it is our responsibility to set the tone for our organizations by providing a positive example for Soldiers to emulate. Soldiers look to senior leaders for guidance, mentorship, and inspiration in difficult times. Suicide and suicidal ideations among Soldiers is a tragic event that we must be prepared for. Ultimately Soldiers that have made up their mind to end their life is one too many, and this epidemic needed a drastic change. In 2009, the Army suffered a record number of suicides among active-duty Soldiers totaling 352 (Haynes, 2015).
To better prepare leaders and Soldiers the Army invested in a program called Master Resilience Training (MRT) part of the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2). The premise of MRT is to equip Soldiers and leaders with the skills required to deal with adversity, change how they react to stressful situations, and arm them with the tools they need to cope with complex situations by quickly bouncing back. When a Soldier has decided to take his/ her life or attempt to take his life, there are many contributing factors such as personal loss, stress, or even combat related disorder.
Sergeants Major (SGM) can combat suicide through positive psychology by utilizing lessons taught in MRT, more specifically the competency of optimism, that include the skills of, hunt for the good stuff, put it in perspective, and real-time resilience to save a Soldiers life. Positive Psychology Positive psychology is a science it focuses on three qualities: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. Defining positive psychology is what makes life most worth living according to (Peterson, 2008).
Positive psychology is a frame of mind. It is the ability to look at the world, as the glass is half full and not half empty. It focuses on the positivity in your life not the negative. Most people are resilient, positive psychology capitalizes on this attribute and draws on the great things that occur in your life leading to a more fulfilling and productive outcomes in your professional workplace. The use of positive psychology will allow leaders to understand the negative experiences that Soldiers are facing.
It will aid them to focus on the positive aspects of their lives and support them in feeling that those are the reasons to continue living. Leaders must focus on the strengths and weaknesses of these Soldiers and build on the good things while improving on fixing the ones that are not good to fix the problems at hand. Master Resilience Training (MRT) centers on positive psychology and teaches Soldiers and leaders how to bounce quickly back in the desperate situations. Master Resilience Training
Master Resilience Training is a progressive and intense ten-day training module designed to arm leaders mostly Noncommissioned officers (NCOs) that attend the training with the competencies and skills needed to train Soldiers and leaders in their units on how to become mentally and emotionally stronger. According to the MRT manual, “resilience is the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity” (MRT, 2014, p. 5). Students that attend the training learn about the six competencies and fourteen skills that encompass the MRT program.
Students that attend this training and successful graduate then have an obligation to establish an MRT program within their organization. As an SGM, the importance of having a fully functional MRT program will be vital to our continued readiness physically, emotionally, and psychology for the rigors of everyday life in the military. While optimism serves as one of the six competencies of MRT Soldiers must learn to utilize this skill while encountering severe situations. Optimism To think optimistically, one will live a healthier life and become a better leader.
They will be able to focus on the positive rather than the negative and seek solutions when change is possible. Developing and practicing this skill of optimism in our organization will foster a positive command climate. By looking at every opportunity as a chance to succeed rather than fail. Optimism provides hope. The ability to recognize the good not only in yourself but also in those around you while ncentrating on what is in your control and combating negative thoughts is optimism (Reivich & Seligman, 2011).
For example, getting ready to conduct a live fire range, your junior Soldiers may be anxious because it is there first time performing this type of training. Your Soldiers must see your confidence you have in the organization and the training you have completed before the live fire event. Your confidence will invigorate those junior Soldiers, and strengthen their commitment to the unit by quelling any uncertainty. Soldiers that hunt the good stuff produce better results and thrive to produce excellence. Hunt the Good Stuff The first skill associated with optimism is hunting the good stuff.
What does this mean? Hunting for the good, stuff is one’s ability to record what went well each day. It allows the person to reflect on the day’s events and pick out the positive. By utilizing a journal, you can ask yourself why the good thing happened, what the good thing means to you, what you can do to replicate more good things, and who contributed (MRT, 2014, p. 42). For a Soldier that is contemplating suicide, this tool would be extremely helpful. It will prove to the Soldier that positive events are going on in his/her life.
When you hunt for the good stuff, it decreases depression you have a greater appreciation for life, by building better relationships every symptom that a risk Soldier needs to focus. Hunting for the good, stuff crushes the negativity bias, cultivating this skill in a suicidal Soldier; it provides hope and optimism by putting their situation into perspective. Put It In Perspective Put it in perspective is another skill associated with optimism. Soldiers that are at risk for suicide have a tough time putting their situation into perspective.
They are overwhelmed with depression and slide into catastrophizing a constant downward spiral that continues to circle around the same problem. By putting their problem into perspective, it counteracts this negativity by looking at the situation and generating the worstcase outcome then looking at the best case and identifying the most likely outcome. By going through this process and producing courses of action for the best case, the intent is to jolt the Soldier out of the negative thinking and place them back into reality so they can develop a plan of action.
As an SGM, it would be easy for us to start one of these catastrophizing events by just calling a Soldier to our office without providing a reason. We must remain vigilant of this and not contribute to this counter-productive process. You must practice real-time resilience for it to be an active skill. Real Time Resilience The last skill associated with optimism is real time resilience. Utilizing real-time resilience will enable a Soldier to shut down counterproductive thoughts as they occur. Developing this skill in Soldiers that are thinking about suicide will immediately change their thought process.
Real-time resilience allows us to stay motivated and concentrate on the task. Soldiers depended on their experience levels practice real-time resilience on a daily basis. For example, preparing for an exam the Soldier learns the day of the test that it is a closed book examination. The Soldier assumed the examination was an open book, but now he must psych himself up that no matter what he was prepared and prevent any negative thoughts to remain focused on the examination. You can use real-time resilience in our everyday life. As an SGM, using this skill to get your Soldiers minds focused so they can remain focused on the task is critical.
For example, if one of your Soldiers receives upsetting information before the first formation it is your responsibility to get him focused so he/she can concentrate on physical readiness training. Utilizing sentences starters to focus the Soldier again, for instance, “A. more optimistic way of seeing this is” (MRT, 2014, p. 128). Your actions might be enough, but you should as the SGM, check back in with your Soldier to ensure your Soldier is all right or if you can offer any other assistance. Conclusion Suicide is a continuous challenge that leaders face. Unfortunately, there is not a prescribed method of eliminating the problem.
Numerous factors contribute to a Soldiers decision to take his/her life such as personal loss, stress, or a combat disorder. The results of suicide are everyone suffers from this tragic event family, friends, the unit, and the Army as a whole. MRT is one program that we can utilize to make Soldiers and leaders more resilient to deal with stressful situations and bounce back from adversity. NCOs that attend Master Resilience Training have an obligation to develop an MRT program within their organization, training the Soldiers and leaders within the organization on the competencies and skills to become a more resilient individual and team.
As the SGM, having an entirely functioning program will ensure the quality of our force and readiness to deal with complex situations. Optimism is the ability to see what is good in yourself and all around you. The skills that are associated with optimism are hunt the good stuff, put it in perspective and real-time resilience. When a Soldier hunts the good stuff, he/she can see the positive things that are happening in their life and look how to make even more good things happen.
Utilizing the skill of put it in perspective will jolt the Soldier out of their negative thoughts so they can develop a plan to accomplish the most likely outcome. Using real-time resilience with our Soldiers stops the counterproductive thoughts as they occur and shifts the Soldiers focus on the task that requires his/her attention. Sergeants Major (SGM) can combat suicide through positive psychology by utilizing lessons taught in MRT, more specifically the competency of optimism, which include the skills of, hunt the good stuff, put it in perspective, and real time resilience to save a Soldiers life.