Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Intervene to save lives

by Airman 1st Class Kaleb Snay
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/31/2013 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan  -- Whether it's hazing, depression or the death of a loved one, these factors can lead even the strongest of warriors into the perilous pit of bad decisions.

Contemplating things that could ruin their life and may eventually lead to them taking a path they never thought they would take.

Perhaps the emotions overcame them and became too much to handle by themselves, but whatever the problem may be, sometimes the only thing that's keeping someone from taking the final step into darkness is you.

"Most Airmen who commit suicide don't want to die," said Tech. Sgt. Allen Walton, 35th Medical Operations Squadron Mental Health technician. "They just want to stop hurting."
There are many stressors that can lead a person into a crisis and make them think that suicide is their only way out. A suicidal person may not ask for help upfront, but that doesn't mean that help isn't wanted.

Knowing what to watch for can be difficult unless the signs become obvious, but knowing when to intervene can be the difference between life and death.

"The pain that they're going through is huge, not just something petty," said Capt. Michael Carollo, 35th Fighter Wing chaplain. "Their whole world seems like it's crashing down and getting that person to see that there is hope and life is worth living can be very challenging as a caregiver."

As someone trying to provide assistance to a friend, wingman, co-worker or family member, knowing what that person has been through can be essential to knowing if they are at risk.

"Everyone is potentially at risk," said Carollo. "We want to help people before things get so bad that they go through with the suicide. Sometimes people suddenly stop caring about things they used to love, or hygiene goes down. If you see somebody is upset, go talk to them. How they respond may give you more reason to believe they might be contemplating suicide."

The loss of an Air Force member can be devastating, said Walton. It directly affects families and units involved and can indirectly affect general morale on base. One suicide is too many, which is why suicide prevention is the key.

"Suicide prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously," said Walton. "If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, you might be afraid to bring up the subject. But talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life."

A majority of Airmen that committed or attempted suicide were not known to have communicated with others about their intentions of harming themselves, said Walton. That's why communication is very important.

There are many avenues that the Air Force offers to make it easy for anyone contemplating suicide to get the help they need. Stress Management classes like 'Sleep Better', which teaches skills to obtain a better night's rest, are offered on a regular basis. Chaplains and Mental Health technicians are always available to speak with as well.

Sometimes people just want a helping hand from someone they are comfortable with, said Carollo. They want someone there to talk to about work or any other issue they may be having that's causing them to want to hurt themselves.

"Suicide is seen as a taboo subject but you need to know how to approach someone to talk about it," said Carollo.

Anyone willing to help can take the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, which teaches the skills and builds confidence to be able to step into that situation, said Carollo. Learning these skills could help you save a life.

"When all is said and done the most important thing to note is to know that life is worth living, and we shouldn't let anyone go down the wrong path," said Carollo.

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