Preventing the next suicide

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- In January 2009, the number of Army deaths from suicide outpaced the number of soldiers killed by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. The Air Force has also seen an increase in suicides from the previous year.
Little Rock Air Force Base has had an increase in suicide-related behaviors since the beginning of the year. Life difficulties or emotional distress triggers an impulse to end their own lives for some of our vulnerable Airmen. Although most of our fellow Airmen recover from temporary stress, grief or depression, some tragically resort to suicide. A phrase from the Chief of Staff of the Air Force's April 24 Letter to Airmen sums up my conviction perfectly, "One suicide is too many, and we cannot let our guard down as we work to prevent the next." 

Suicide awareness programs have been re-emphasized in response to these troubling trends. Efforts have been doubled to train leaders and supervisors to be vigilant and act when they see early signs of distress. During safety day, our wing leadership dedicated time to brief every Airman on the principles of suicide prevention. Additionally, a host of medical and mental health professionals work hard every day to provide world-class care to those who are distressed. Even with all of these measures in place, we still lose members of our Air Force family to this alarming problem. 

It is vital for each one of us to get involved to prevent the next suicide. Programs, training, briefings, and availability of professional services are practically useless without the personal involvement of each of us. 

The key to preventing the next suicide is you. Will you take time to listen to a fellow Airman who has been discouraged lately? Will you take statements of self-harm seriously when you hear them? Will you tell the person why their life is important to you? Will you go with that person to get help instead of sending them to find help on their own? 

As a mental health provider, I'm privileged to witness firsthand the lifesaving acts of good Wingmen on this base. They saved lives by simply identifying the danger signs and actively assisting their fellow Wingmen to get help. What could feel more rewarding than knowing you were instrumental in saving a life of a friend? We have all promised when reciting the Airmen's Creed to "never leave an Airman behind," and that's what is required from each of us to prevent the next suicide.

The following is a list of suicide prevention resources:
 Military Onesource at 1-800-342-9647 or online www.militaryonesource.com
 Chaplain at 987-6014
 Family Advocacy at 987-7377
 Airman and Family Readiness at 987-6801
 Primary Care Clinic at 987-8811
 Mental Health Clinic at 987-7338
 Bridgeway Hospital at 771-1500 (24 hour evaluation)
 Call 911 in emergencies
 1-800-SUICIDE
 1-800-273-TALK