LANG display remembers soldiers during National Suicide Prevention Month

September is “National Suicide Prevention Month”, and the Louisiana National Guard R3SP program is spreading awareness.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 2:03 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2023 at 4:01 PM CDT
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PINEVILLE, La. (KALB) - September is “National Suicide Prevention Month”, and the Louisiana National Guard R3SP program is spreading awareness by displaying their “To the Forefront” boot display at the Louisiana National Guard Training Center to spread awareness and remember those lost too soon.

Every 11 minutes, a person dies by suicide. It does not discriminate between our military and civilian population. Everyone can join in on prevention efforts, every day.

“You know, we talk about it. There’s such a stigma surrounding mental health in our community, especially with our Service Members,” said Kyah Iles, Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the Louisiana Army National Guard.

Iles is part of the Louisiana National Guard’s Resilience, Risk Reduction & Suicide Prevention Program, which aims to enhance the Force’s resilience and reduce suicide rates through training on identifying at-risk individuals and assisting them, thereby mitigating high-risk behavior. The program’s mission is to spread awareness for mental health and suicide among soldiers.

“It’s hard to talk about,” said Iles. “We’re supposed to be the strong ones, we’re supposed to be the tough ones.”

That led to the “To the Forefront” boot display that started a few years ago.

“It puts things into perspective and makes it realistic to see how many people are being lost to the battles inside,” Iles said. “It puts it in the forefront for us to know that this is a real issue and what needs to be addressed.”

Each boot represents each of the 70 soldiers lost to suicide since 2003. Each dog tag attached to the boots contains an age, gender, the year they died and their rank. It is a constant reminder that individuals struggling with thoughts of suicide matter and that community support is always needed.

“In order to create a mental health mindful community, you have to be mindful yourself. Just letting people know that it’s okay to not be okay,” said Iles. “Checking on your loved ones, checking on each other every single day. We have a Battle Buddy system throughout the Louisiana Army National Guard to remind peers to check on each other and provide support in all areas of life. You never know how much of a difference it might make.”

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