News>Langley Airmen to raise suicide awareness through community walk
Service members of various branches of the military prepare to present the colors prior to the beginning of the Out of Darkness Community Walk” in 2011. A team from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., will join more than 3000 others Sept. 8, at Mt. Trashmore, Va., to raise awareness of the tragedy of suicide. (Courtesy photo)
A participant in the Out of Darkness Community Walk in 2011 takes a moment to remember a lost family member. This year, the walk will be held at Mt. Trashmore, Va., Sept. 8, beginning at 8:30 a.m. (Courtesy photo)
Thousands of people from all walks of life joined together for the Out of Darkness Community Walk in 2011. This year, the walk will be held at Mt. Trashmore, Va., Sept. 8, beginning at 8:30 a.m. (Courtesy photo)
by Tech. Sgt. Randy Redman
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
9/4/2012 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- In the United States, a person dies by suicide every 15 minutes, which claims more than 36,000 lives each year. Suicides among U.S. military members have spiked this year, and according to Pentagon figures, it is the highest rate so far during a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to recent reports, 154 military service members committed suicide during the first 155 days of this year. In an effort to stem the tide, the Hampton Roads Survivors of Suicide Support Group is sponsoring the "Out of the Darkness" Community Walk Sept. 8, at Mt. Trashmore, Va. A team from Joint Langley Air Force Base will join more than 3,000 others to raise awareness of the tragedy of suicide.
"The mission of the walk is to raise awareness of depression as a treatable disease, and to raise awareness of suicide as a preventable tragedy," said Chris Gilchrist, who started the suicide support group 24 years ago. She said the proceeds from the community walk benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
AFSP is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.
"In all the years I've been involved, I've never come across a suicide that wasn't preventable," Gilchrist said. "Suicide is less a matter of wanting to end one's life, and more a matter of ending the emotional pain associated with depression."
U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bryan Davidson, is the 633rd Medical Operations Squadron Psychological Health director. He is an advocate for using behavioral health resources, and assists Joint Base Langley-Eustis leadership by coordinating support agency efforts. During the suicide awareness walk, he will be serving as an on-site counselor, along with some other mental-health providers from the Tidewater area, for anyone during the walk who may want to talk or grieve in response to this difficult subject.
"The imagery of coming out of the darkness is two-fold. We are attempting to remind people that there can be hope for coming out of a dark place of depression, and reminding people not to choose suicide," said Davidson. "The walk is also an attempt to simply bring into light this vital issue, and reduce the stigma of asking for help in times of distress."
Davidson said there are primarily two ways service members can curb the risk of suicide, beginning with knowing what steps to take when someone is in distress.
"We should ask them directly if they are having thoughts of suicide, show genuine concern for their welfare and escort them to the appropriate personnel who can ensure their safety," said Davidson, adding that the second step is more in the realm of prevention.
"We are relational beings. People need to actively pursue, maintain and invest in healthy relationships," Davidson said. "Also, a person's faith or spiritual beliefs can help build these important relationships, and provide a sense of meaning and purpose that will pull them through difficult times."
Warning signs of depression and suicide are typically not blatant, but rather subtle nuances of personal change friends and colleagues need to be aware of. Davidson said to be aware of significant changes in functioning, performance or mood in those around you.
"Broken relationships and substance abuse are also indicators of elevated threat, but it is important to note that getting to know the people around you will be the primary means of detecting this change," Davidson said. "Staying engaged with them over time and building that trust will provide the avenue for them to speak up when they are down."
There are a wide variety of resources available to personnel at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, including Mental Health, Family Advocacy, Military and Family Life Consultants, and many more.
"There are so many resources on- and off-base for those who need help; all they have to do is reach out and make those connections. I encourage all to get the help they need and choose to live life well," Davidson said. "Also, if people want to join us at Mt. Trashmore on the 8th, they are free to show up the day of the event. Come help us bring an end to the tragedy of suicide."