JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
“Depression is not open weeping or purely suicidal ideation. Sometimes depression is a mask; someone goes to work, acts normal and then goes back to their dorm, apartment or house and sits down and does nothing until bedtime, rinse and repeat the entire process.”
September is Suicide Prevention Month, but it’s more than just that. For Senior Airman James, whose last name has been omitted due to the Airman’s official job guidance, of the 497th Operation Support Squadron, this month is almost like a warning.
“September is the last month before the big three: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas,” James said. “These holidays are times of joy, elation, get-togethers, parties and for those who are alone like those in the military, they can be the worst times of the year.”
Suicide has continuously taken military member’s lives and is one of the leading causes of death within the force.
“September has been set aside nationally to draw attention to this issue,” said Pamela Adams, JBLE Suicide Prevention Program manager. “However, throughout the year, we can and should also highlight the importance, impact, and opportunities for building and reinforcing protective factors such as a sense of purpose, connectedness/belongingness, and positive coping skills/resilience.”
The thoughts of someone with depression, anxiety or any other mental illness can differ, but for all, one thought remains the same: they are alone.
“It is an alienating thought designed by a depressed state of mind to isolate one from others,” James said. “It is best for other Airmen to realize that everyone who has been or is depressed has much of the same thoughts.”
James can’t pinpoint the day he started realizing he was depressed. He noticed his thoughts were more negative and even questioned the point of his own life. In his case, he reached out for help early on to combat these thoughts. He started seeing a therapist on base, which he says was much needed.
Therapy wasn’t a cure-all for James. It took multiple sessions before seeing the changes within himself, but he considered the more positive side that he wasn’t able to just months ago.
“The signs of depression are subtle, and being aware of those could help keep someone alive, even if they think or say they don’t want to be,” James said.
He describes his symptoms as negative thoughts. He felt that he was unlovable, hated and wrong. These thoughts influenced his negative behaviors, such as self-isolating.
“Many times, symptoms can worsen without intervention, and people sometimes tend to avoid seeking help due to stigma, shame, and/or not having full knowledge and understanding of resources,” Adams said.
Resources are available 24/7 for anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide. These include the mental and behavioral health clinic, military family life counselors, chaplains, hotlines and in emergency cases, any hospital or dialing 911.
“One of the most important resources is the family, friends, and colleagues who are standing by ready to offer support, a listening and non-judgmental ear, a corny joke, or help with a task,” Adams said. “We cannot decide what may be helpful to someone, and many of us have experienced how little gestures and positive encouragement carry a lot of weight when experiencing difficult times.”
James hopes his experience will help anyone weighing whether to get help or not. The sooner help is given, the better; it can save a life. He encourages everyone to normalize seeking help and treating mental health as any physical ailment: something that should be improved and maintained consistently.
For a directory of resources, please visit https://www.jble.af.mil/Resources/Resiliency-Directory/ or for emergencies, call 911 immediately.