Suicide prevention: a real force multiplier

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman DeAndre Curtiss
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Do you want to know the sad truth? It's a truth that brings tears to the faces of families and stress and troubled days to those you would call friends. It's a truth which makes a commanders life just a little harder. The truth is, in 2011 the U.S. Air Force lost 56 Airman and civilians to suicide.

Suicide is a very real issue that is plaguing not only the more combat-deployed services like the U.S. Army and Marine Corps but also the Air Force.

There are many ways to look at the suicide rates of the Air Force and what could be the contributing factors to why it happens, but the easiest way to look at it is by the facts. The facts say that out of the four major U.S. military branches, the Air Force had the third highest suicide rate of all the services in 2011.

Some of the factors that are known to contribute to Airmen committing suicide are relationship problems, financial troubles, legal issues, and a history of mental illness. There is also the stress that is added from deployments, but surprisingly Air Force statistics show that the increased deployment tempo directly correlates with decreased suicide rates. So what is it that happens to an Airman that can cause them to end their life?

Though the facts may be staggering, the truth is that there are a lot of outlets which provide help, and you or somebody you know can come back from those thoughts of committing suicide. The truth is that there is no shame in asking for help and admitting you have problems. The majority of Airmen who commit suicide do not seek mental health care.

The 2010 Air Force Climate Survey found that more than half of the Airmen surveyed felt there was a stigma associated with seeking help. This is a stigma that Air Force leadership has worked to reduce, but it still exists. The Air Force offers Airmen and their families the opportunity to see a licensed counselor without notification of your chain of command.

Suicide prevention is not just an Air Force marketing ploy, it is a real tool that can and does work, but only if you let it.

Here at Holloman AFB, there are many suicide prevention outlets like the mental health clinic, Military One Source, and the base chapel. There are also places like Outdoor Recreation and its Holloman Outdoor Wingman program, which allows Airmen to go out and enjoy nature with activities like kayaking, hiking and mountain biking.

Prevention of suicide is more possible than ever, whether you are a friend, supervisor or commander. We all have the responsibility to help out those who need it, those who may displaying the signs which can be as loud as a shout for help. Each and every Airman and family member has a value not only to the Air Force but to your friends and loved ones. Yes the military lifestyle can be difficult and events in life can leave you hurt and confused, but before you go to the extreme seek help, don't become another costly casualty, prevent suicide.

For more information on suicide prevention or to get help for you or others contact the 49th Mental Health Clinic at (575) 572-5676