There is always help, just look to a wingman

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nicholasa Reed
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Heavier deployment commitments are taking military members away from their loved ones more today than ever. Not to mention the normal day-to-day stressors imposed on anyone already under strain could be considered the proverbial straw.

The solution -- any medical professional would agree -- is never suicide.

"There isn't any situation that an individual is going through that can't be addressed and resolved by just asking for help," said Maj. Dawn Kessler-Walker, 48th Medical Group mental health clinic psychologist.

Help is always available, whether a friend or family member, chaplain, mental health clinic, first sergeant or supervisor.

In fact, said Major Kessler-Walker, these are the people who are in the best position to notice a change in behavior that might suggest risk.

"Most of the time when someone becomes suicidal, the people around them are going to be the first people to find out or notice, not a medical professional."

Some of the changes to watch out for include, but are not limited to; engaging in reckless activities, increased alcohol use, withdrawal from friends and family as well as dramatic mood changes.

According to the American Association of Suicidology Web site, most suicidal individuals give definite warnings of their intentions, but others are either unaware of the significance of these warnings or do not know how to respond to them.

The best approach once any of these signs are detected, agree many experts, is the direct approach.

Ask the individual if they are feeling suicidal. Then follow the conversation up by getting them to a professional who can help them.

"Get the person to talk ... the best thing you can do for them is just listen and be supportive. Once they have opened up at their intentions, take them to one of the resources that can help," said Major Kessler-Walker.

Efforts of the Air Force's suicide prevention program, introduced in 1996, have resulted in the most success from any organization or group in the world. Annual training for all Airmen has resulted in a 28 percent decrease in suicides during the last 11 years.

Knowing the signs of those at risk, every wingman is empowered to be a pivotal part in stopping suicides.

14 ways to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide
By the American Association of Suicidology

1. Be aware. Learn the warning signs.
2. Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
3. Ask if they are thinking about suicide.
4. Be direct. Talk openly and freely about suicide.
5. Be willing to listen. Allow for expression of feelings. Accept the feelings.
6. Be non-judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.
7. Don't dare him/her to do it.
8. Don't give advice by making decisions for someone else to tell them to behave differently.
9. Don't ask 'why'. This encourages defensiveness.
10. Offer empathy, not sympathy.
11. Don't act shocked. This creates distance.
12. Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
13. Offer hope that alternatives are available, do not offer glib reassurance; it only proves you don't understand.
14. Take action! Remove means! Get help from individuals or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.