All Airmen have a responsibility that lasts much longer than a one-month campaign. This responsibility extends beyond ourselves and includes our work environment, our families, friends, fellow Airmen and our communities.
While Suicide Prevention Month is observed across the United States in September, the month-long event is a reminder of everyone's 24/7, 365-day responsibility to be a true Wingman. That means knowing our fellow Airmen, family members, coworkers and what is happening in their lives, as well as being willing and able to support them when they are facing challenges that test their resilience.
The Air Force has undertaken several initiatives to improve resilience for individuals and our communities. These efforts can be found under the umbrella of Comprehensive Airmen Fitness (CAF) which focuses on maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle across physical, mental, social and spiritual domains. Individuals practicing comprehensive fitness are more likely to seek help when needed and be able to identify risk factors and warning signs when an individual is off balance.
"Prevention begins with each individual working to strengthen and maintain their overall well-being across all CAF domains, as well as being able to identify when thers need help. A good Wingman offers help knowing what resources are available, and follows up to stand by their side throughout a challenge," said Lt. Col. Kathleen Crimmins, Air Force Suicide Prevention manager. "Assisting Airmen to get help... whether peer or professional, is what a Wingman does."
A number of resources are available to include the Air Force Suicide Prevention website, the Airman's Guide for Assisting Personnel in Distress, the Military Crisis Line by calling 1-800-273-8255, press 1, text 838255, or go online to chat at www.militarycrisisline.net, with access to peer counselors in person and through online chats and text messaging.
You can also find help by contacting your local agencies who make up the installation Integrated Delivery System.
In addition to the crisis phone line, help is also available through the Vets4Warriors peer support chat line at 855-838-8255 or online at www.vets4warriors.com. This line will connect an individual with veteran peers who understand the unique challenges of military life and assist with problem solving and resolution.
Family members, retirees, and veterans can also use these resources for themselves if they feel the need to speak with someone.
According to Crimmins, Air Force mental health clinics reported an increase in the number of visits annually over the last few years which are positive results of the Air Force's effort to remove the perceived stigma of seeking help. Leaders at all levels must continue to promote and encourage individuals to seek support agencies and clinician services as a normal step in maintaining a good work and life balance.
Early resolution of stress helps Airmen maintain a balanced lifestyle, which in turn allows them to withstand, recover and grow in the face of adversity.
"We can all make a difference by helping our Wingmen understand they are not alone," said Crimmins. "Sharing our stories and highlighting our own personal resilience and perseverance will let others know their Air Force family is behind them and those needing help are not alone."
For more information and resources, visit the Air Force Suicide Prevention website at www.airforcemedicine.af.mil/suicideprevention
CALL TO ACTION: One of the most effective ways to promote the 24/7/365 approach to suicide prevention is for Airmen, their families or friends to step forward and share their own experiences of how they recognized they needed help and sought out support and resources. Perhaps your resilience was tested in some way; or someone close to you had their resilience challenged and you reached out to them. We want to hear your stories of resilience encouraging others to seek treatment and understand what resources are there to help. Please contact your local Public Affairs office to coordinate sharing your story.