Suicide prevented by individuals

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
September is Suicide Prevention Month and Airmen are reminded to take care of themselves and their wingmen through difficult times.

Though Airmen might consider suicide for many reasons including a recent loss, relationship turmoil, legal problems and financial stress, preventing an otherwise temporary problem from escalating to suicide starts at the lowest levels.

"It's a constant battle; any Airman we lose is a tragedy," said Col. Chris Short, 366th Fighter Wing commander at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. "It takes the supervisor getting to know their Airmen and Airmen stepping in to make a difference."

"Airmen will typically reach out to their peers for support before they will reach out to their supervision," said Capt. Steven Hyer, 366th Fighter Wing suicide prevention program monitor. "Helping them can be as simple as asking them how they're doing, listening to them and being willing to show concern for their well-being."

Hyer says a number of signs could indicate an individual is considering suicide, including increased alcohol use, deliberate isolation, giving away possessions, hopelessness, feeling trapped as well as any kind of significant mood change.

"A sudden positive mood after a prolonged period of depression may indicate that a person has resolved to commit suicide," he added.

Even if the individual is not considering suicide, a sympathetic ear could make the difference.

"Changes in behavior may not always mean that your wingman is considering suicide," said Hyer, "but it often means that your wingman is experiencing stress and having difficulty coping, and they could use your support. Listen to them."

Research shows that supervisors play a crucial role in suicide prevention. As a leader and mentor, first-line supervisors are in a unique position to help an Airman in distress.

"Encourage them to get help," said Hyer, comparing emotional health to a performance-based car. "Every car needs a tune-up and getting a tune-up is not a sign of weakness, but a way to keep the car performing at an optimum level."

Even if Airmen don't feel they have someone to talk to in their immediate surroundings, several avenues are open to Airmen seeking help, including the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Military OneSource, chaplains and base mental health offices.

Hyer reminds Airmen to seek help when they need it. Ninety seven percent of Airmen who visit mental health do not have negative career impacts.

Another resource for military members, both active duty and veteran, is the Military Crisis Line. It was established in 2007 and has answered more than 890,000 calls, rescuing more than 30,000 callers. An anonymous online chat service was added in 2009, reaching another 108,000 people.

To reach the Military Crisis Line with skilled responders who are knowledgeable of military culture, dial 1-800-273-8255 and press No. 1. The crisis line also is available by sending a cell phone text to 838255, or through online chat.

"We much prefer that they call us when they're in crisis so we can point them to services. We don't want to risk losing any of them," said Tricia Lucchesi, Military Crisis Line responder. "Any person who calls the crisis line has the choice about how much information they want to share."

Hyer shared similar sentiments.

"We're here to help," Hyer said. "Even one Airman lost to suicide is one too many."

For more information, visit the Military Crisis Line.