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Choosing a permanent solution to temporary problems Next suicide prevention briefings Tuesday in base theater

by Tech. Sgt. Roderick D. Johnson Stephanie Witty
Life Skills Support Center/I>

It is Tuesday morning and you walk into your office after a long three-day weekend. There is a thick cloud of despair in the air and morale appears to be at an all-time low. Your first assumption is no one wants to be at work. You yell out in jest "You all act like someone had died in here."

To your surprise someone replies, "Yes someone did." Sgt. Flip killed himself last night. You go to your office, close the door and sit in silence. The only thought running through your mind is what could I have done?

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the Air Force, after accidents. It is imperative for supervisors to comprehend that promoting positive interpersonal relationships enhances suicide prevention.

Suicide prevention begins with Air Force leaders at all levels being aware of the resources available to help people in distress. All members assigned to the Department of Defense are considered gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are the spokespersons for suicide prevention. The Air Force is desperately trying to change attitudes about getting help. A common misconception among airmen is that getting help will hurt their careers. Statistics show 97 percent of airmen who self-refer for mental-health treatment receive no negative career recommendations.

As of July 21, there have been 10 suicides among active-duty airmen, a rate of 9.3 per 100,000. The rate for 2002 was 8.3 per 100,000, the second lowest in 20 years. Of the 29 suicides among active-duty airmen that year, only 24 percent sought help from life skills support centers in the month prior to their death.

Typically, military members belong to a healthy community where the suicide rate is much lower than the national average, thanks to people who care and have aggressive suicide prevention plans.

The Air Force's suicide prevention program has received national recognition, including praise from the U.S. surgeon general, who said it was a model for the nation and incorporated it into the National Suicide Prevention Strategy.

The Air Force takes a proactive community approach, bringing together chaplains and professionals from the following disciplines to become community advocates for suicide prevention:

Life Skill Support Centers
Family Support Centers
Child and Youth Services
Health and Wellness Centers
Family Advocacy

Linking these base organizations together improves the general well-being of beneficiaries. The Integrated Delivery System was created as a proactive approach to enhance a person's mental well-being and quality of life. The system is designed to get a person the help they need by using base and off base resources.

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. John Jumper, says, the Air Force has a network of community and medical resources to help with suicide prevention, ranging from prevention services to individualized counseling.

"We should encourage our people to seek help early, rather than waiting until difficulties become so severe that they impact job performance or result in administrative action," said General Jumper.

Suicide in the Air Force is low, but one is too many. Suicide is not a personal problem; suicide is a community problem. The next base wide suicide prevention briefing will be held Tuesday at the base theater at 8, 9, 10 and 11 a.m. If you have any questions or require additional information, contact the Life Skills Support Center at 827-9170 or 827-9171.




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