SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
For many years, education on suicide underwent a period of unknowns. Before research could confirm the factors leading to suicide, and before the right actions to step up and act were known, knowing suicide was happening and telling people to seek help seemed to be enough.
That is no longer the case. The Department of Defense, and Schriever’s very own professionals in the field of suicide prevention, seek to equip Airmen to best know how to not only sympathize with struggle of suicide, but to actively work in preventing it with the people they impact in their day-to-day lives.
“We strive to have a culture here of looking out for each other. Especially with the topic of this month, suicide prevention,” said Dr. Ken Robinson, 50th Space Wing Violence Prevention integrator. “If we see those signs, we’re going to take care of each other, we’re going to be there.”
To best be there, there are various avenues Schriever wingmen can take, and it can all depend on the situations and people encompassed in the struggle.
“The level of preparedness with how well we are equipped can vary anywhere from simply having a phone number (to a helping agency) on them to having formal training on intervention, via programs like Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training which is offered by the Chaplain Corps,” Staff Sgt. Jeannie Hackett, 21st Medical Squadron Mental Health Clinic NCO in charge said.
In the earliest stages of a struggle with thoughts of suicide, there may be no clear signs. These early stages are where wingman relationships and workplace environments can turn the tide of negativity.
“It all begins with ensuring your Airmen feel welcome, wanted and are playing a positive role to the best of their ability,” Hackett said. “It is imperative that leaders foster an environment of open communication.”
Despite positive workplace environments, there are many risk factors that can play into the spiraling negativity of someone struggling with thoughts of suicide. One of the main risk factors, time and time again, is relationship issues. Be it a marriage, significant other, family, best friend or lack thereof.
“Relationships are really important, because we’re all going to struggle, we’re going to have things that happen,” Robinson said. “It’s just so much better when we have a wingman, spouse, family member or supervisor, someone who you know deep-down, cares about you.”
Which is why reinforcing and being more attuned to those relationships is so critical to the well-being of the Team Schriever family. Knowing this, leaders in the research regarding suicide prevention such as Robinson and Hackett reinforce, teach and learn at every opportunity.
“We see an issue come up, look at it from a risk perspective and then we evaluate what we can do build protective factors in this area to strengthen our community, our families, our Airmen,” Robinson said. “That’s kind of what our work here in prevention is about.”
Identifying, building and maintaining protective factors is one of the ways an individual struggling with thoughts of suicide can establish the security they need to maintain a positive lifestyle. When these protective factors, be it their relationship, workplace, family, hobby or more, are strong, the individual can begin to focus on themselves, and seeking whatever extra attention they need.
“If there was one thing I could suggest outside of the standard sleep, eat, stay fit and (have a) support system, it would be this: remind yourself every day what is important to you,” Hackett said. “What your goals are, the accomplishments you have made towards your goals, and why it is important for you to keep working towards them.
“Ask yourself,” she continued. “‘What gives me hope?’”