We as a “community” must get passed the stigma of talking about suicide prevention. I am not saying we have to be in everyone’s business 24/7, but we do need to step up our game in letting those around us know WE CARE. We should as individual citizens, employees, and spouses care about the well-being of our fellow co-workers, neighbors, friends and families. Just a simple, “hello, how are you today,” is a good start.
Since the new fiscal year began, Air Force Materiel Command has had 17 civilian suicides and 3 active duty. With the uncertainty of the economy and day-to-day operations it is obviously taken a toll on many people’s lives. Per Air Force Instruction 90-505, Suicide Prevention Program, EVERYONE NEEDS to take an active part in caring for people!
The primary risk factors for suicide include relationship, legal, financial problems, a history of a mental health diagnosis, substance misuse and a history of previous suicide attempts. Some signs to be on the lookout for are changes in behaviors and physical changes, thoughts and feelings about life and suicide, and feelings through the things people share with you.
To promote a healthy environment some of the protective factors for suicide prevention include social support and interconnectedness, belongingness, effective individual coping skills, and cultural norms that promote and protect responsible help seeking behavior.
The four pillars
Obviously, early intervention in someone’s life is always preferable to crisis response. And a community-based approach is essential to reducing suicide and maintaining a fit and ready force. Everyone should be familiar with the four pillars of resiliency: social, physical, mental and spiritual. As individuals it is vital to keep a healthy balance in all four pillars. By educating individuals about healthy coping strategies, building confidence, and instilling a belief that members are indeed resilient and able to effectively overcome life problems, they will be less likely to have thoughts of suicide.
To assist the community, Edwards Air Force Base has a wealth of highly qualified helping agencies to include: the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Mental Health, Employee Assistance Program, Military and Family Life Counseling Program (no records are taken, truly anonymous), Chaplains, Health and Wellness, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, School Liaison Officer, and the Equal Opportunity office. Though the real problem is that if people aren’t aware of these resources it doesn’t add up to a whole heck of a lot!
Individual concern is key
We can inundate everyone with brochures, literature, flyers and, of course, death by PowerPoint. But, the question is: Are we really getting to the root of the issue? The answer to this is NO. All it takes is an individual in that particular group, squadron, unit, division, office or shop, to start a simple conversation with the words “How are you doing?” Here at Edwards, you hear we have a unique mission; things here run differently than at other bases. The reality is that we as employees, citizens and co-workers have become so engulfed in ourselves that we have lost and forgotten the human element of TRULY caring about are fellow man/woman.
It’s everyoneís business
The person most responsible for monitoring stress and individual effectiveness is the individual (Airman, DOD civilian, contractor). Then next are the folks who work right alongside these individuals. We must reiterate the “Wingman” concept in regards to the mental well-being of our fellow human beings. Lastly, an employee’s chain of command has definitive responsibility for monitoring the fitness and effectiveness of their people. And of course, when leadership prioritizes suicide prevention, all Airmen, DOD civilians, and contractors prioritize suicide prevention. The culture MUST be established as a Caring Community.
So if you don’t get anything else out of reading this article please ask yourself: What have I done lately to reach out to my fellow co-worker, friend, human being in the way that shows I CARE?
To learn more about suicide prevention go to: www.Wingmanonline.org.