You’re worth it; suicide prevention and awareness

  • Published
  • By Susan Alexander
  • 45th Space Wing Violence Prevention office
The Air Force has initiated suicide prevention strategies to optimize Airman performance. It focuses on culture, problem-solving, resilience, fitness and wellness, and care for those in distress. Helping agencies are constantly working individually and collectively to improve the way they support Total Force Airmen with positive options for stress and emotional challenges.

Comprehensive Airman Fitness and Green Dot are two strength-based approaches for suicide prevention. CAF emphasizes and encourages positive help-seeking behaviors for Airmen, while Green Dot equips bystanders with tools to intervene or get involved when they see a concerning or high risk situation occur.  

Two important protective factors that Green Dot addresses in the suicide prevention training are:  belongingness/inclusion and feeling like you are contributing to something meaningful.  

It’s easy to say “inviting someone to coffee, leaving a nice note, or checking in” is not going to prevent suicide, but what if it could? What if your small act and the small acts of our fellow Wingmen that include kindness, inclusion, and connection creates the kind of community that can prevent suicides? 

Prevention is the responsibility of every Airman, from the newest to the most senior Airman, and we all have to do our part because one suicide is one too many….wouldn’t you agree?

Below are Some Key Themes/Messages:
Seeking help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength, resilience, and a step towards recovery.
Suicide affects those who love and care for them. Every suicide attempt and death affects countless others who are impacted by the long-lasting consequences of suicidal behaviors.
Everyday connections make a difference to someone feeling alone, in crisis, or having thoughts of suicide. We can all make a difference by helping Airmen understand they are not alone and positive support is available.  
One act of kindness or concern makes a difference and it’s often that one act that saves a life.

Below is a list of the more prevalent suicide risk factors and warning signs - this list is not all inclusive.  
Relationship problems
Loss (loved one, esteem/honor, identity)
Lack of social support
Legal, financial or work problems
Severe and/or prolonged stress
Alcohol or substance misuse (includes prescription drugs)
History of suicide attempts/behavior

Early Warning Signs 
Increased substance (alcohol/drug) misuse
Talking about having no sense of purpose/reason for living 
Anxious, agitated, mood swings, uncontrolled anger/rage or reckless
Unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
Talk about feeling trapped, hopeless
Withdrawn from friends, family, activities
Express some of the sentiments above on social media

Immediate/Urgent Warning Signs 
Threatening to hurt or kill her/himself or engaging in self-injury (i.e., cutting/burning) or talking about it
Looking for ways to kill her/himself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
Talking or posting on social media or writing about death, dying or suicide
Any unexpected communication that sounds like a “goodbye”

NOTE:  If you are concerned that someone might attempt suicide, keep ACE in mind and the 
             importance of getting them to safety.

Ask the question directly, “are you thinking of killing yourself?”
Care for the person by calmly controlling the situation, do not use force/be safe, and actively listen to show understanding.  
Escort to chain-of-command, Chaplain, behavioral health professional or primary care provider.

Total Force Airmen and families should talk with each other regarding issues they are having.  It’s okay to ask questions about suicidal thoughts or expressions of self-harm and it’s okay to seek help if you are in are worth it! 

If you need help, immediately contact one of the resources below for assistance:

Patrick AFB Call 4-CARE – 24 hour automated line access to Base Helping Agencies.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Toll free, 24-hour assistance. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
National Hopeline Network – Toll-free telephone number offering 24-hour suicide crisis support. 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433). 

For questions, call the 45 SW Violence Prevention office at 321-494-3743.