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September is Suicide Prevention Month

September 7, 2012

 


More airmen committed suicide in the first three months of this year than in any other first quarter in the past decade. From Jan. 1 through Aug. 17, there have been a total of 70 suicides in the Air Force.



 


With the number of suicides in 2012 doubling in the services compared to ten years ago, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has called it one of the most complex and urgent problems facing the department, said a Pentagon spokesperson during a briefing with reporters June 8.



 


Stigmas associated with seeking help for mental health issues continues in the military culture. There are some jobs where it is perceived that you cannot have a mental health condition. However, in a recent review of mental health care provided, 97 percent of people who sought mental health care did not have adverse actions or career impact. Greater impact from mental health problems is generally seen when problems go unreported and untreated.



 


We have been briefed numerous times on suicide, but it is crucial to recognize symptoms of those at risk:



 


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Thinking about hurting or killing him/herself


 



 


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Experiencing excessive rage, anger or desire for revenge


 



 


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Seeking access to pills, weapons or other means of harming him/herself


 



 


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Having feelings of anxiety, agitation or hopelessness


 



 


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Talking or writing excessively about death, dying or suicide


 



 


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Repeatedly reliving past stressful experiences


 



 


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Unable to sleep or sleeping all the time


 



 


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Experiencing dramatic changes in mood


 



 


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Withdrawing from friends, family or society


 



 


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Feeling there is no reason for living


 



 


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Engaging in significant alcohol or drug use


 



 


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Feeling trapped, like there is no way out


 



 


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Engaging in risky behavior, such as driving recklessly


 



 


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Showing distinctive or drastic changes in behavior


Often when a military member commits suicide, friends and coworkers state that the individual appeared fine and they were shocked. Hopefully this response can serve to remind everyone to take time out to take care of each other and ask how we are doing. Take an extra step to ask how someone is doing one on one. As a supervisor, evaluate your airman as a whole person and not just in-reference to how the individual is at work. Take time to get to know your co-workers and subordinates.


 


Frontline supervisors are often the closest link in identifying concerns. The importance of the role of these supervisors is one of the reasons why the frontline supervisor training is mandated for all new supervisors.


 


Additionally, it is vital that every member take responsibility for themselves and seek assistance from co-workers and supervisors with stressful situations and personal problems that have the potential to impact mental health and performance.


 


When problems escalate, seek help! Do not assume that you can handle your stressors yourself, that no one else can help, that your problems will just go away, or even that "most people can handle their stress so I should be able to". These are unhelpful and often not true. When you start to see suicide as a viable answer to your life stressors, you should seek help immediately!


 


Suicide is everyone’s responsibility. Be a good wingman! Mental Health is available for any questions and requests for additional briefings to units. We can provide suicide briefings and stress management upon request at any location. We also have many other services and resources available.


 


Please contact us at 687-4341, and we will be happy to assist.