Health & Safety

June 29, 2012

Severing the chain reactions that can lead to suicide

By Senior Airman Jack Sanders
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Those last few words of the argument ring in your head as you pour another drink. Checking Facebook makes everything worse, and the more you drink the worse your thoughts become – and the worse your judgment about the situation gets.

Eventually, the growing voice inside your head telling you to end it all becomes impossible to ignore. The chain reaction of events has overwhelmed your ability to cope. A potentially deadly crossroads looms among thoughts of suicide.

“Most suicides come as a chain reaction or a stacking effect of different stress factors, with relationships, finance, legal and alcohol as the top factors,” said Capt. Jose Ortega 99th Mental Health Squadron, Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention chief, Resiliency Officer in Charge and Traumatic Stress Response Team chief.

Stacking stressors result in a domino effect. Each event crashes into another, increasing the damage until it can no longer be tolerated.

These life events weigh heavily on the daily thought process — a warning sign that things are beyond one’s ability to keep them in control. Without assistance and deliberate, healthy methods of coping, they increasingly impact work, health, relationships and every facet of life until they are totally overwhelming.

“Fighting to keep the balance of military issues in life is difficult,” Ortega said. “It’s like looking at a puzzle with a lot of missing pieces, and not realizing you can’t put it all together on your own. You have to balance work with relationships, deployments and many other factors, and it’s hard to keep it all balanced. When the balances is lost or the buildup of stressors becomes too much, that’s when people enter a dangerous world.”

The problem is on the rise and suicides at Nellis have increased.  Fortunately, prevention is possible. Help is available, both for the individual and for those who could be in the position to help others.

“Resiliency is our best weapon, and the more we train the better we’ll become at preventing these incidents,” Ortega said.

Recognizing the danger is a key component of helping to prevent injury. The first line of defense against this threat is the first line supervisor.

“Front line supervisors can make a difference and see distress before most others would,” Ortega said. “We offer a class for supervisors, but I’d recommend supervisors take the time to attend all the classes we offer. The more they know about the subjects the easier it will be to catch.”

The Mental Health flight offers classes for both Nellis and Creech. Classes offered include, but are not limited to, anger management, healthy thinking and couples counseling.

“Most people tend to push stressful thoughts aside or ignore them thinking they can deal with it one day at a time and it’ll go away, but it won’t,” Ortega said.  “They’d rather deal with issues themselves than put the burden on anyone else. They may think it is weak or be afraid of consequences or just think they really can handle it — when they can’t. They’d rather take on the burden themselves, for their families or job’s sake.

“You are never alone,” Ortega said. “You aren’t as helpless as you may feel, and we are always here to help. Talk with someone. I’m always open to do one-on-ones myself.”

Good resiliency references for Airmen and supervisors are at hand. Visit the Bounce site at or the Air Force suicide prevention website at

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