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Suicide Prevention Month Part 1: Something's up with Smith

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 -- Senior Airman Smith is a model Airman. A fixture on the "Airman of the Month" board, he shows up for work every day with a smile on his face and a determination to be the best aircraft maintainer he can be. He is known around the shop for being a positive and friendly guy who is always ready to party when the work week is done. He finds time to talk to his parents almost every day and he plans to propose to his girlfriend of two years when she returns from leave later this fall.

Although Smith is a fictional character, he will encounter some stress that is all too real for many working in the military over the next few weeks.

Throughout September, a narrative of this Airman's struggle with thoughts of suicide will be presented to help you identify warning signs, learn about some of the Air Force's suicide prevention resources and potentially save a life.

Suicide Prevention Month is observed each September in the United States. The goal of the month-long campaign is to bring awareness to the signs of suicidal thoughts and behavior so people can identify them within themselves and others more easily.

There are certain stressors that everyone has to deal with. For those in the military community, some of these stressors are exacerbated while new ones are introduced.
In addition to working away from family in an entirely different country, any financial issues you may encounter have the potential to impact your security clearance, an inability to juggle home and family life is not likely to reflect well on your performance review and your job depends on your physical fitness.

If not handled properly, the stress can "snowball," transforming from a minor distraction to an unbearable burden.

Staff Sgt. Kinsey Brown, 18th Medical Operations Squadron mental health technician, said the biggest thing to look out for in yourself and your wingmen is changes in personality.

"If your friend usually eats a lot and you notice he isn't eating very much, or he usually likes to go out with friends and he's been staying in more, these could be warning signs," said Brown. "Utilize the A.C.E. model. I know people have heard it a million times but we wouldn't keep telling people if it wasn't effective."

A.C.E. stands for "Ask, Care, and Escort." If you notice changes in your wingman you should ask how the person is feeling and express your concerns directly. You should care for your wingman by listening to what he or she has to say in order to determine if you need to escort them to mental health, a chaplain or another resource that will be able to provide them the help they need.

The best way to prevent stress from taking over your life is to improve your resilience through Comprehensive Airman Fitness, which balances spiritual, physical, social and mental health. By strengthening these aspects of your life, you provide yourself with a solid foundation for effectively dealing with everyday stress and several outlets to deal with extraordinary stress.

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