Seven-year-old John Murray Jr. makes his message simple and clear as he writes it out with a marker on four Post-It notes: "Ask for help!!!" (The fourth note is for the exclamation points.)
It's his prescription for troubled U.S. soldiers and veterans as the Army faces a growing problem with suicides.
"The 7-year-old could not have put it better," said Col. William Darby, commander of the Fox Army Health Center at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.
It was in the pharmacy waiting room at the health center where John first became aware of the issue, and devised his solution, and it made for an awkward moment for his mother, Ingrid Murray.
The two of them were randomly selecting words for him to read in the room around them, as a reading exercise. They saw "Army," "care," "family," but the boy was stumped when he saw an unfamiliar one on a suicide prevention poster.
"And I asked Mom, 'What's that "S" word?'" he said. "She started walking faster, and I asked her again."
"Wished I had a degree in psychology right about then," his mother cringed. "My first thought was, 'Let's just keep on walking through the waiting room,' act like I didn't hear it. But the Army wants everybody to talk about it."
When she relented and explained why someone could possibly want to end his or her own life, her son came up with a simple analysis.
"When they don't have any broken arms or legs, and no blood," he concluded, "you can't see the sadness inside them, but they still need help."
As for why such people don't receive the help they need, his mother explained sometimes they're reluctant to ask for it. That prompted his succinct outreach on Post-It notes, which he left on a table at the Fox Army Health Center, in the hope that someone might see it and realize…
"There's other people that care about you and want you to ask for help," said John.
The message struck a chord with Army medical leaders when Ingrid wrote about her story to the Army's website.
Army Surgeon General Patricia Horoho posted her letter and called the story "beautiful" and "a lesson for all of us."
John's father, Sgt. John Murray, described the message as a simple one whose inescapable logic defies layers of social stigma.
"Go ask for help because it is just something that simple, but I don't think I've ever thought of it in those simple terms. Maybe sometimes we try to overanalyze," he said.
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