Suicide prevention: everyone's responsibility

  • Published
  • By Capt. Christopher Howells
  • 18 Medical Operation Support Squadron Mental Health Services
Suicide prevention is the responsibility of the entire Air Force community. Each Airman within our bigger community is responsible as a leader and a wingman when it comes to fostering a culture that encourages seeking help and using healthy coping skills.

Suicides can be prevented; however, suicide prevention as a whole can be a difficult task which is why active duty personnel are considered the eyes and ears outside of the mental health clinic.

From airman basic to general, civilian personnel to family members, Airmen should be aware of risk factors and the agencies available to provide support should they need it. They should also be prepared and unafraid to ask directly about suicide if they notice one of their wingmen is in trouble.

As a supervisor it is important to try to identify when your Airmen are acting differently or going through a particularly stressful time. Create a unit environment where it is okay to ask for help. For 97% of those who voluntarily go to mental health there is not a negative career impact.

If you suspect someone is having suicidal thoughts you should be direct--use A.C.E.:
- Ask that person if they are having thoughts of suicide
- Care enough and be genuinely invested in that person feeling better
- Escort that person to the local mental health clinic or chaplain

Suicide generally does not come out of the blue; there are number of risk factors and physical, emotional, behavioral and mental warning signs. Risk factors for suicide include feelings of hopelessness, overwhelming stress, relationship problems, legal issues, and feeling trapped and unable to seek out help.

Various agencies can provide support before a crises arises. These agencies include the mental health clinic, Airmen & Family Readiness Center, chaplain services and the family advocacy clinic. Services they offer include marriage retreats, personal financial counselors, stress management classes, and new parent support programs.

If a local crisis occurs during duty hours contact the Kadena Mental Health Clinic at 634-481, option 2, option 2. For help after duty hours on base call 911, if off base call 119 or 098-934-5911 from a cell phone. You can also call the national suicide crisis hotline on a DSN phone; just dial 800-273-TALK. Individuals can also go to the Military Crisis Line here.

For more stories refer to these links:
Air Force mental health programs encourage seeking help
Airman reveals personal resiliency amidst force shaping

If you or someone you know is going through a difficult time and need to talk now is the time. Call the command post. Call a supervisor or first sergeant. Call the chaplain. Call someone.