Airman Uses Social Media to Prevent Suicide

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Social media has become one of the most prevalent ways to communicate with our friends, family and community. Many see it as way to keep up with the lives of those who they are separated from or as a way to blow off steam by watching funny cat videos or the late night videos of the guy who builds a village out of a stick and some mud. What most people don’t see are the subtle hints and downward spiraling trends that can be the first, or last, indicators that someone might harm themselves or others.

Technical Sergeant Alessandra Goler-Pigg, a 612th Air Operations Center Knowledge Management section chief, noticed a change to an old high school friends posts, which prompted her to act from over 1,800 miles away.

“The second post is what really raised my awareness because she was explaining how her family doesn't care for her anymore and how her son deserves a better mom, that's where I started to reach out to her,” Goler-Pigg said. “I haven’t seen this girl since probably 2006 and I didn’t know if she would even respond.”

Much to Goler-Pigg’s surprise her efforts wouldn’t be ignored, but to her shock she received a single response, “I’m dying, bye”. Goler-Pigg knew she had to act quickly.

“At that moment I just kept messaging her, and told her to please call me. I didn’t know what else to do. That’s when Goler-Pigg’s husband walked through the door. In an effort to keep her own cellphone line clear she took his phone and called the suicide prevention hotline.

“I called the hotline myself and I told her, if you don’t want to call alone we can call together.” Goler-Pigg’s phone rings, “She called me on messenger and in that moment I just wanted to keep her on the phone. I’ve been a volunteer victim advocate for almost seven years and in these moments I have to act and apply the training I’m taught to take care of a victim.”

Goler-Pigg initiated the distract technique taught during the Air Forces annual violence prevention training by directing the conversation in another direction.

“Once I calmed her down I talked to her about starting her own business, being in the process of starting my own business I told her about the LLC process. I did it to keep her mind off the distress she was in, and kept her on the phone until the police arrived.” Goler-Pigg explained.

“I heard the police in the background, she said the police are here. I could hear them speaking with her and then the phone hung up.”

Later that day Goler-Pigg reached out to her high school friend’s mother to check in and extend her support even further. The mother thanked her for being there and said she was in good hands getting the care she needed.

Even though her actions prevented what could have been a tragedy Goler-Pigg was torn. “I wasn’t sure if I did the right thing necessarily. She kept saying don’t call the police because they’re going to take my son and I was battling that. But I’m like this is the right thing, don’t think of it like that, her son deserves to be in the right care whether that’s with her later on or her mom or whoever.”

That next day Goler-Pigg spoke with her mentor about it. “I told him the story and he was like “Whoa you did that last night?”. Goler-Piggs mentor then contacted her leadership, discussing the lifesaving efforts she made.

Due to her direct intervention Technical Sergeant Goler-Pigg was awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal third oak leaf cluster for outstanding achievement.

“Just being able to apply what I learned is gratifying to me. I was grateful that I was used in that moment. I want to raise the awareness that you don't have to know the person. I know her from like I said years ago, but it doesn't have to be someone directly connected to you for you to intervene.”

If you or someone you know is in distress please contact 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.