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Suicide Prevention Month Part 2: Smith's acting strange

Suicide Prevention Graphic (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Naoko Shimoji/Released)

Suicide Prevention Graphic (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Naoko Shimoji/Released)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Editor's note: This is the second installment in a four-part series on suicide awareness and prevention.

Senior Airman Smith has not had a very good month. He recently found out that his girlfriend of two years, to whom he planned on proposing later this fall, rekindled the romance between herself and her high school sweetheart while home on leave. Since the breakup, Smith hasn't quite been himself.

Usually a social butterfly, Smith ditched his friends this weekend in favor of staying home alone. He usually goes to the dining facility with a group of coworkers for lunch on weekdays, but he has been taking his food to go and eating by himself lately. He has also been ignoring calls from his family, making excuses not to spend time with friends and has become more withdrawn at work.

When he is around people, Smith acts strange. Although he has led his office's Fantasy Football league for the past two years, he has decided not to participate at all this year. In addition, he has made a few appointments with the legal office to work on his will and has been giving away some of his favorite video games from his vintage collection.

Smith is exhibiting some warning signs that he might be planning to hurt himself. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, people considering suicide often become more withdrawn, visit or call people to say goodbye, give away prized possessions and increase their use of alcohol or drugs.

Signs like these are usually accompanied by verbal clues such as someone talking about committing suicide, feeling they have no reason to live, being a burden to others or feeling trapped. Generally, these are preceded by a history of depression, prolonged stress or a significant stressful event such as a breakup or being the victim of sexual assault.

If you suspect someone is at risk, if someone tells you they are considering suicide, or if you find yourself having suicidal thoughts, you should take it seriously and act immediately. Remember the acronym A.C.E.--ask, care, escort.

Calmly and directly ask your wingman if they are considering suicide. Care for your wingman by actively listening to what they have to say and removing anything that could be used for self-injury. Finally, never leave your wingman alone; escort them to their supervisor, first sergeant, chaplain or behavioral health professional.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts yourself, call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, or reach out to a wingman, supervisor, chaplain or behavioral health professional for help.

For more information, visit www.airforcemedicine.af.mil/suicideprevention.