September is Suicide Prevention Month which seeks to raise awareness of suicide and educate on how to seek help or help others who may show signs of being suicidal.
There are many assumptions and taboos around suicide, but it is important to understand that every person is different.
In response to suicide numbers across DOD, much is being done to help service members receive the help they need.
The Brandon Act, introduced back in 2020 to help the mental health of our military force, allows for service members to get mental health treatments and required mental health evaluations. It will also allow them to seek help confidentially and raise awareness of mental health.
Stressors can be a big reason to steer someone into a depressive/suicidal state. Many different things can induce stress, and it is a different case for every single person. It is impossible to know every single person’s situation and have all the answers as it is different for everyone, but there are some trends that we know of and have learned how to work against them according to Master Sgt. Brian Cebulski, who spent four years as the Mental Health Flight Chief at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
“Suicidal ideations/behaviors can often result from someone experiencing severe, prolonged, stress beyond their ability to cope or handle in healthy ways,” he said. “When someone becomes suicidal, they may have been struggling for quite some time and the constant strain can push someone to see suicide to escape their situation.”
With the Brandon Act now implemented, service members can get extra help to cope with their stress, which can help prevent suicidal ideations.
When someone is struggling with suicide, it is important to support them and help them through their difficult time. When talking to someone who needs support, it should be kept open-ended and validating.
Though it’s difficult to know exactly how your peers are feeling, it is important to recognize when something is unusual to help guide those struggling back to their normal mindset. Knowing all the right answers is not the only way to help someone.
“Suicide is a complex multidimensional issue and can be overwhelming for anyone, so constant surveillance is the optimal way to provide safety,” said Cebulski.
The Brandon Act implements that service members will get the support they need and helps build the courage for them to ask for help, which is the first step to helping them get the support and help they need.
When friends, family, and co-workers do not seem like themselves, it can be a sign that something is going on. It is important to develop a healthy relationship with those around you. It lets those close feel they have someone to rely on and have support through rough patches.
“We all have bad days or even weeks but most of the time, things balance out. When it doesn’t and we don’t have the support we need, it gradually builds up and overwhelms us,” said Cebulski. “This is why healthy and supportive relationships are so important, especially at work among peers, supervisees, and even supervisors/leadership. Sometimes day-to-day support networks are sufficient and other times we need professionals.”
It is still important that to not overstep boundaries and respect their choices to an extent. Respecting each other’s boundaries is so important and it takes patience and time for things to change. If it gets to the point where there is a possibility someone could hurt themselves or others, they should be taken to the right professional immediately.
Now, with the Brandon Act implemented, it is significantly easier to ask for help. The new legislation is in place to remove that and make it normal to ask for help when it comes to mental health.
“In some cases, we need to force people to get help for safety reasons, but this should be done with the help of a professional. Stay connected and continue to build the relationship through future dilemmas to increase that investment along with involving others, especially in crises. Lastly, be patient with yourself and the person who needs help.”
When suicide occurs, different types of reactions can come and vary depending on the person. Depending on the relationship with the person, personal experiences, and personal ways of handling emotions, reactions can vary but there are some common responses. Some of the most common responses are shock, sadness, grievance, and anger.
“Some people may be in shock as they try to make sense of the loss while others may become sad and openly grieve the loss, which is the most common response. It is also not uncommon for people to feel shame or guilt and think they should’ve noticed or done more to help the person when they had a chance,” said Cebulski. “Some may ruminate about the loss and replay the last encounter they had with the person and, because there is no way to reengage now that they are lost, a survivor may themselves begin to negatively spiral. Anger is another common reaction that can occur because the abrupt and unexpected loss triggers a stress response that uses anger to cover up or counter the feelings of sadness or guilt.”
When someone is suicidal or in an unstable state, it is important to do something IMMEDIATELY. Even if it is just a small act of asking if they are okay, can make such a big difference.
“Act immediately. When you are just concerned, simply checking in on someone and asking how they are doing or if they need help can be more beneficial than many people realize,” said Cebulski. “When you have someone in an active crisis state, the best thing to do is to get them to a stable, staffed, and equipped environment as soon as possible.”
At Edwards, there is always a professional on standby. The Mental Health clinic is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
To seek help, military personnel do not even need to specifically state their problem. They can say they need help under the Brandon Act, and they will get the referral they need for mental health assistance.