At approximately 5:08 p.m., Dec. 30, 2013, I was checking my Facebook messages and I noticed an alarming post from an Airman I knew, stating “F*** life, I’m tired of trying.”
At that point, I began to read her previous posts. There was a lot of troubling information in them that led me to believe something was seriously bothering her.
“I would rather kill myself and be done,” read one of her statuses.
After seeing that, I immediately tried to contact her via Facebook messenger, but she didn’t respond. At approximately 5:15 p.m., I called her base’s defense operations center to notify the desk sergeant of what I had read. I felt the signs the Airman was displaying were serious enough to require action on my part, so I requested that a patrol be sent to check on the Airman.
When security forces responded they found the Airman nearly incapacitated in her room. She had attempted suicide by taking a mixture of pills and alcohol. The Airmen was then taken to a local hospital by ambulance to receive the care that would save her life.
I have also been credited with saving this young Airman’s life due to my quick response to the telltale signs of suicide ideation. I was asked to tell my story with the hope that it would encourage other supervisors and wingmen not to hesitate to take action if faced with a similar situation.
Throughout my 11 years as a security forces member I have responded to many situations where an Airman has called the law enforcement desk feeling like they want to harm themselves. I have also attended briefings and completed numerous suicide awareness training courses. The combination of these three things has made me more aware of how people act when they are thinking about committing suicide. Without the training and personal experiences on this subject I would not have acted the way I did.
I strongly encourage supervisors to get to know their Airmen so they can better recognize behavioral changes in them. When behaviors outside of the Airman’s normal day-to-day routine occur this could be a sign something is not right. At this point the supervisor should ask questions to see what is going on with the Airman. By getting to know what drives your Airmen, what their hobbies are, things they like to do on their off-duty time and their family situation, you will learn how they normally behave.
If you feel your Airman needs help, know what agencies to get in contact with. If you don’t know what agencies to contact, ask someone in your chain of command to assist you. When in doubt, call security forces, and they will respond immediately and get you the help you need.
The responsibility to pay attention to the signs of a distressed Airman not only belongs to the supervisor, but to everyone in the Air Force family. The responsibility also lies within ourselves to seek help when we are feeling distressed. Stepping forward to acknowledge your problems can be very stressful, but it is a sign of strength, not weakness.
For those who find themselves in a predicament they cannot figure out on their own or find themselves in need of direction, there are several options available:† Contact your supervisor, chaplain, first sergeant, mental health clinic or primary care provider.
Military Crisis Line
If youíre a service member in crisis or know a service member who is, confidential support is available online at http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ActiveDuty.aspx, or by phone at 800-273-8255, or send a text to 838255. The service is available 24/7/365.
Military One Source
Military One Source is a free service provided by the DOD to service members and their families to help with a broad range of concerns including money management, spouse employment and education, parenting and child care, relocation, deployment, reunion, and the particular concerns of families with special-needs members. They can also include more complex issues like relationships, stress, and grief. Services are available 24/7 online at http://www.militaryonesource.mil/ or by phone 1-800-342-9647.)