Suicide prevention: The battle within

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman DeAndre Curtiss
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
What is resiliency, and why is it important to the wing commander that Airmen improve it? Why do supervisors emphasize Comprehensive Airman Fitness it so much? One of the answers to these questions is suicide prevention.
Suicide is an issue that has been plaguing the U.S. Air Force and the other branches of service, and in 2012 it is no different.

"I believe that suicide prevention is not just a responsibility that we have towards each other, but a responsibility that we have towards ourselves," said Capt. Timothy Rogers, 49th Medical Operations Squadron mental health physician.

The number of Air Force military and civilian personnel who have committed suicide this year is up 40 percent from the same time last year, according to a press release from Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, James Roy. The number of Air Force suicides in the first quarter of 2012 was 35, compared with 25 during the same time period last year. Also, more Air Force personnel have died by suicide this year than the combined total of personnel who have died by accident or through combat.

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. All of these problems Airmen face have one thing in common, they can be helped.

"Individuals who face overwhelming stress, intense emotional pain without adequate support or coping skills are more susceptible to having thoughts about suicide," said Rogers. "This process can be understood as a means to avoid or stop the pain that they are experiencing. This idea can be particularly enticing if a person believes that there is no end in sight regarding their stress or pain."

There are a lot of outlets which provide help, these outlets can assist anyone in coming back from thoughts of committing suicide. The truth is that there is no shame in asking for help and admitting that there's a problem. However the majority of Airmen who commit suicide do not seek mental health care.

"Here at mental health we train regularly to be alert for warning signs, and how to assist someone who is having difficulties," said Rogers. "Effective suicide prevention is based on good leadership and willingness of others to be wingmen for each other. I also believe that suicide prevention begins with committing ourselves to comprehensive fitness, people who take care of themselves often have less stress, better overall sense of well-being, and life satisfaction."

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 via Military OneSource.

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

"We're always concerned for the emotional and mental well-being of our Airmen and their families," said Col. David Krumm, 49th Wing commander. "It's important to me, and to the other commanders and supervisors on base, that everyone knows what their options are as far as support is concerned, who they can turn to, and that it's not a bad thing to seek help. We're all a part of the Team Holloman family and we don't want to see anyone hurting."

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